Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Even More On Stealth Evangelism

Below is just a sampling of the material that can be unearthed by anyone who digs into the creepy subculture of stealth evangelism. The material below focuses on only one aspect of this very broad and pervasive phenomenon: the training and deployment of undercover missionaries to parts of the world where Christian missionaries are forbidden.

Undercover missionaries of this sort are very much a "post-colonial" phenomenon, since prior to WWII the European "Great Powers" had seen to it that the peoples of Africa and Asia had no choice but to accept Christian missionaries, or else. Another important factor is that the advent of undercover missionaries also coincided with widespread collusion between missionaries and the intelligence community, something hinted at here and there in the stories below.

After listing these six stories, I then reproduce one of them in full. I intentionally chose an "insider" account written by a good Christian reporter employed by the Associated Baptist Press.

The Stealth Crusade
By Barry Yeoman, Originally published in Mother Jones, May/June 2002

Use of undercover missionaries getting new scrutiny
By John Pierce, Baptists Today, May 5, 2003

Religion: Missionaries Under Cover
By DAVID VAN BIEMA;Perry Bacon Jr. and James Carney/Washington, Amanda Bower and Manya Brachear/New York, Jeff Chu/London and Matthew Kalman/Jerusalem Monday
Time Magazine, June 30, 2003

Undercover missions can't justify breaking laws
Baylor University "The Lariot", Liz Foreman, Jan. 28, 2009

Heart And Soul: Undercover Missionaries
BBC World Service , 21 Jun 2009

Universities no place for undercover missionaries
Eric Fish, Global Times, January 18 2010

Use of undercover missionaries getting new scrutiny
by John Pierce, Associated Baptist Press

ATLANTA (ABP)--Is it ethical to send missionaries into a closed country under cover of some other employment?

Some mission strategists are having second thoughts about the practice, common among evangelical groups. Since at least the 1980s, some Christian organizations have sent mission workers into countries that don't accept missionaries.

Some go with other "platforms"--skills, trades or services that are acceptable to the host country. These missionaries, who live in the target country, are often called "tentmakers," after the Apostle Paul's adopted occupation. Others, called non-resident missionaries, live outside the target country and enter on short-term visas.

In both cases, their work of evangelism or church starting is kept secret from authorities. And back home, their identities and assignments are not revealed by the mission organizations to protect their safety.

Anonymous missionaries are used by both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but not by the American Baptist Churches USA.

Recent missionary murders and the war in Iraq have heightened concern about the presence and safety of missionaries, particularly in Islamic countries. Three Southern Baptist hospital workers--missionaries but not secretive--were killed in December in Muslim-dominated Yemen. In April, word that Time magazine is considering an in-depth article revealing the work of anonymous missionaries sparked protests from some Christians.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is one organization rethinking the strategy. Gary Baldridge, co-coordinator of CBF global missions with his wife, Barbara, said recent concerns about the ethical and missiological implications justify a second look.

"We're in the middle of reflecting on the deployment of field personnel to restrictive-access countries," Baldridge said. "We're really struggling with it administratively."

Baldridge had hoped to invite a group of ethicists and missiologists to discuss the issue in a forum prior to the CBF general assembly in June, but that may not be logistically possible, he said.

The issues, he explained, are more about the long-term effectiveness of the "non-resident missionary" than about public relations. He acknowledged, however, that why some missionaries remain anonymous requires ongoing explanation. Baldridge said CBF repeatedly tells those who support its mission efforts, "Please be aware that this (missionary) directory is incomplete."

"Many CBF missionaries live in areas of the world that are openly hostile to the gospel," he added. "Their identities are kept confidential in order to protect their lives and ministries and the lives and livelihoods of new Christians in these highly sensitive areas."

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board declined to comment for this story.

Keith Parks, now retired in Richardson, served both as president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) and as the first CBF global missions coordinator. Under his leadership, Southern Baptists began the efforts that developed into the non-resident missionary approach.

"It really started in the '80s when we were talking with people from China," Parks recalled. "They said: 'We can't receive missionaries, but we need help.'"

As a result, Parks said, the FMB created Cooperative Services International as a non-profit organization separate from the FMB. Parks served as CSI president as well, and the organization used the same address and phone number as the FMB.

"It wasn't some James Bond approach," Parks said. "Governments know what you're doing. If you play according to their rules, they'll let you do it."

Through hiring arrangements with universities and other institutions, Parks said, personnel could gain access where otherwise missionaries would be rejected.

However, the original CSI effort evolved into a non-resident missions program that allowed access to other countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa that were hostile to the Christian gospel.

"You can't live in a country, but you're assigned to find ways to serve," Parks explained. "At the FMB, we would set up (non-profit service organizations) and then the funding for the individual and their work would go through that organization."

"They could literally say their support came from Organization XYZ, but that support came to the organization from the FMB," he added.

Parks said he understands how some could pose ethical questions about a strategy that does not use full disclosure of one's identity or intent. However, he asked: "Is it ethical to leave millions of people to suffer?"

Parks said he welcomes the discussion about this and other approaches to missions in difficult settings. However, he sees some increased risks as well. "I think it needs to be more fully aired, but you're alerting people all over the world to what you are doing."

"I don't agree with breaking the law or smuggling," Parks said. Yet he recognizes that "some of the greatest needs are in the poorest countries" where governments are hostile toward a Christian witness.

In those settings, he said, non-resident missionaries have been able to assist with water purification, agriculture, medical and educational needs--and they were public about that assistance. These workers, Parks added, "did what they said they were doing--just more. I don't have an ethical problem with that.

"Most American Christians are so insulated from the world and don't realize that day-to-day people are being slaughtered because they are Christians," he continued. "You can lay that alongside, 'Gee, I can't call them missionaries,' and you see the concept."

Parks said he doesn't fault either the IMB or CBF for what they've done to try to serve people groups not reached with the gospel. But the "ideal got blurred along the way," he said.

Parks recommends focusing more heavily on "tentmakers"--or "envoys" as CBF calls them--who hold legitimate employment in mission settings that give opportunity for witness. "The greater need is to have business organizations set up to find ways for local Christians to make a living and present the gospel."

Bill O'Brien of Birmingham, Ala., is a former FMB vice president who worked closely with Parks in developing mission strategies like the non-resident approach.

"You can live in a neutral city where it was legal to live and travel in and out (of a restricted access setting) as you try to find out if there are other Christians there and to share the gospel any way you can," O'Brien said. "The term used is 'find a platform.'"

However, O'Brien said he has "an opinion that borders on a conviction" now about what has evolved from this mission strategy.

O'Brien, who also served as founding director of the Global Center at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, said he began to "have real questions about this" when trying to establish a mission partnership for Samford in an undisclosed country. A Southern Baptist missionary there told O'Brien that when the missionary publicly identified himself as an "agricultural and humanitarian specialist," locals would often ask: "What do you really do?"

"Local people are not dumb," O'Brien said. "And we are kidding ourselves if we think governments don't know what we're doing."

O'Brien said he is especially concerned for the risk placed on local Christians. Missionaries can leave quickly if persecution arises, he said, "but I'm worried about locals who can't leave quickly."

The IMB missionary O'Brien visited returned to the United States and became an employee of a multi-national company. In doing so, he was able to "put people in difficult parts of the world, but in legitimate businesses."

"You are unashamedly creating a Christian witness, but you don't have to remember what you told the last person," he said.

O'Brien described the "marketplace" as a great mission field and urged strategists to focus on planting legitimate businesses that provide opportunities for witness.

O'Brien admits he is "still struggling" with the issue. He said he gets "a little turned off to coded language" used by mission personnel to conceal their identities and purposes, "but I'm sensitive to security."

Baldridge said he and other CBF leaders struggle as well. In China, however, CBF is completely "above board" by registering missionaries with the China Christian Council, he added. In other parts of world where that is not an option, CBF's focus might shift more to the tentmaker approach where workers can actually reside in the areas they serve, he said.

With additional reporting by Greg Warner of Associated Baptist Press

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pre-emptive snark about Rajan Zed's forthcoming overtures to Miley Cyrus

Back in July of 2011 (getting close to a year ago now), Miley Cyrus tweeted: 'Dear Universe, For my next life can I please come back as some form of marine life?'

World Renowned Shameless Blowhard and Craven Self-Promoter Rajan Zed immediately lept upon this innocent example of a young person rejoicing in the beauty of nature (Miley was at the beach that day, enjoying the water), and fired off a salvo of press releases claiming that Cyrus was "endorsing" Hinduism, and taking the opportunity to volunteer to be her spiritual adviser (an offer he has also publicly made to Julia Roberts, Lady GaGa, Brad Pitt, Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Gisele Bündchen, and Lindsay Lohan, so far with no takers)

One shudders to think what Zed will make of today's bombshell revelation that Miley Cyrus is a proponent of meditation!


Miley Cyrus urges young girls to meditate to get real-life answers

From the desk of Rajan Zed: Miley Cyrus, Naked Yoga, the Church of Norway, and so forth ....

Rajan Zed: Some Negative Reviews

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"More than one source of valid religious knowledge." Moshe Idel on Ficino (and Plethon) on Prisci Theologi (and Kabbalah)

Moshe Idel, a modern scholar of Jewish philosophy, has proposed a fascinating typology for Renaissance theories of prisca theologia. According to one type of theory, all valid religious knowledge has a single source, a single historical revelation of Truth. But according to a very different theory, valid religious knowledge has been revealed to different human beings at different times and places.

It is highly significant, and quite possibly not for the reasons that Idel perhaps has in mind, that Marsilio Ficino was the leading proponent of the multilinear approach to the transmission of prisca theologia. Idel further proposes that George Gemistos Plethon was the primary influence on Ficino in this regard.

Below is Idel in his own words, from his essay "Prisca Theologia in Marsilio Ficino", in the volume Marsilio Ficino, His Theology, His Philosophy, His legacy edited by Michael J. B. Allen, Valery Rees, and Martin Davies, and published by Brill in 2002.
Those aspects of Renaissance thought which constitute 'occult philosophy' operated with two basic forms of religious lore both claiming, or at least attributed to, hoary antiquity: the Greek and Hellenistic corpora translated by Marsilio Ficino into Latin, and the Kabbalistic literature, studied in Hebrew or in Latin translation. This double, coincident and sudden encounter invited the emergence of strategies of validation and legitimation to appropriate them in an intellectual and religious atmosphere dominated by Christian dogmatics. Indeed, Christian intellectual in the West encountered, for the first time, fully-fledged treatises which included doctrines that proposed Platonism and the various versions of Neoplatonism not only as authoritative philosophical sources but also as transmitters of religious doctrines, which were expounded in an esoteric manner. This theory is known as prisca theologia. In the last generation scholarship has paid due attention to this theory in the Christian Renaissance, contributing seminal studies to the topic.

Ficino's contribution to this theological strategy was decisive, and much of what happened after his translations and commentaries was the reiteration of his ideas about chains of transmission of the ancient lore. In the following essay, an attempt will be made to accentuate some aspects of Ficino's historiography of knowledge which have not yet been highlighted. The brief discussion of the Jewish material will not only add points of comparison but, in the case of Ficino, may throw light on nunaces in his fluctuating views of prisca theologia, which was also shaped by his debate with Judaism. In any case, it is clear from some of the discussions below, as well as some that cannot be addressed in this framework, that Kabbalistic contents, some of which are not to be found in other forms of Judaism, helped in the adoption and adaptation by some Jewish intellectuals of themes that permeate the corpus translated by Ficino. I would say that the privileged status enjoyed by Kabbalah, conceived of as an ancient Jewish mystical theology, in Ficino's circle should be taken into consideration when dealing with his views of prisca theologia, as is the case with other Renaissance instances, most remarkably Leone Ebreo's Dialoghi d'amore.

There were two main theories that allowed the adoption of those doctrines into a Christian monotheistic framework: the first contends that they agree with Christian theology because they were influenced by a primeval tradition which included or at least adumbrated the tenets of Christianity; the alternative argues that the affinity between these two bodies of thought has no historical explanation but is the result of a series of revelations imparted separately to both pagan and monotheistic spiritual leaders. The two solutions represent different approaches to the historiography of religion, and their underlying assumptions are worth more detailed analysis.

The first theory implies that there was on single revelation of religious truth, though more than one single line of transmitting the valid religious doctrines may be assumed. The source is the Mosaic tradition--sometimes related to an Adamic or Abrahamic tradition--which was handed down to pagan philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras. Sometimes Hermes, the focal figure of some lists of prisci theologi, was even appropriated by Jewish writers in the Renaissance, such as Yohanan Alemanno and Isaac Abravanel, as being identical to the biblical Enoch. This approach will be designated in what follows as the unilinear theory. It was espoused by what can be called "orthodox syncretism" in late antiquity, among Jewish Alexandrian authors, such as Flavius Josephus, in some Father of the Church, by some figures during the Middle Ages, and also by some scholars in the Renaissance. A major example of the assumption that the prisca theologia consists of a unilinear theory can be found in the statement of Charles Schmitt, an eminent scholar and major investigator of this topic:
At the root of Ficino's concept [of the prisca theologia] lie several writings attributed to pre-Greek authors, especially Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, and Orpheus, which according to his interpretation were transmitted to Plato by Pythagoras and Aglaophemus. These writings were also considered to be connected at the root with Hebrew Scriptures, thus making Greek philosophy have a very close relation indeed with Judaeo-Christian tradition.
The unilinear theory draws its inspiration from Jewish and patristic sources of late antiquity. The most important names are Arta[anus, Alexander Polyhistor, Flavius Josephus, Lactantius, Eusebius, Augustine, and Clement of Alexandria. The unilinear theory was developed also in the Renaissance, mostly by Jewish authors. The most famous pagan figure who was described as learning from the ancient Jews was Plato, mentioned in a variety of Jewish and Christian sources as having been the student of a prophet, sometimes identified as Jeremiah, in Egypt. Let me mention two more of several Renaissance examples which portray the high status of Plato and the consonance of his teaching with Judaism. The first is R. Yohanan Alemanno, a contemporary of Ficino and a companion of Pico who lived for several years in Florence. He regarded Plato as having been in alignment with Jewish culture. In his commentary on the Song of Songs he distinguishes between two ancient types of philosophers. The first is:
the sect of the ancient ones, from venerable antiquity up to the generation when prophecy disappeared. They are their sons and disciples thirstily drank their [the prophets'] words up to Plato who was in their [the prophets'] days and in their times. The second sect commenced when prophecy ceased and the days of evil came, from the time of Aristotle and later, up to our days.
Clearly Platonic lore is described as being the result of the influence of the Hebrew prophets. In fact, valid philosophy is considered to be contemporary with ancient Israelite prophecy and as having ceased together with it.

A similar approach is found in the work of a seventeenth-century Kabbalistic figure, R. Joseph Shelomo Delmedigo. In his Matzref le-Hokhmah he says
The ancient philosophers spoke more virtuously than Aristotle, to those who understood them correctly, not as Aristotle interpreted them, for his intentions were solely to reproach them so he himself would be praised. This becomes clear to anyone who reads what has been written on the wisdom of Democritus and its foundations, especially by Plato, the master of Aristotle. Plato's opinions are similar to the opinions of the Sages of Israel and in a few instances it appears that he spoke as a Kabbalist. No fault can be found in his words, and why should we not accept them, for they belong to us, and were inherited by the Greeks from our ancient fathers? Even until this day many of the great sages accept Plato's ideas, and there are large circles of students who have continued in his footsteps.
However, while those two authors belong to what can be described as a more universalistic approach to Kabbalah, which saw pagan philosophy in positive terms, there were also other, less positive descriptios of the same type of affinities. In more extreme and general terms, R. Elijah Hayyim ben Benjamin of Benazzano, a late fifteenth-century Italian Kabbalist, explicitly refers to philosophers as thieves of the ancient Jewish wisdom, Kabbalah. It is from the tradition stemming from Abraham the patriarch, the alleged author of the cosmological treatise Sefer Yetzirah, that philosophers adopted the idea of the ten supernal entities, known as the 'ten separate intellects'. These entities are no more than a misunderstanding of the Kabbalistic interpretation of the ten Sefirot, a key notion in the ancient Jewish treatise. Incapable of comprehending the secret of the dynamic unity of hte ten divine powers, the philosophers, ' who are in any case the thieves of wisdom', introduced division into the divine realm.

The Christian Renaissance thinkers seem, however, to have been fascinated more by another theory, which I should like to designate 'multinlinear'. This latter theory seems to have been influenced in part by the views of a mid fifteenth-century Byzantine author who had strong pagan proclivities, George Gemistos Plethon. It was he who was instrumental in introducing into western Renaissance thought the name of Zoroaster as a reliable religious source and it seems very plausible that it was also Plethon who inspired those of Ficino's genealogies in which Zoroaster has a place of honour. Ficino embraced some views of Plethon, and apparently of Diogenes Laertius and Plutarch, which contributed to the turning away in the West from the earlier traditions concerning a unilinear theory to embrace the hypothesis of two or more lines of transmission. The multilinear version of prisca theologia assume the possibility of more than one source of valid religious knowledge and more than one line of transmission. Though the contents of this knowledge are identical in the two or more lines of transmission, their literary or terminological expressions differ from one case to another. It is this second theory that deserves more attention in the framework of the specificity of Chrisitan Renaissance thought, because it is more problematic from a strictly monotheistic point of view; equally it is more innovative in comparison to the late ancient and medieval endeavors to point out the concordance between Greek thought and monotheistic religion. Le me quote one expression of this view, as formulated by Pico della Mirandola:
Iamblichus of Chalci writes that Pythagoras followed the Orphic theology as the model on which he fashioned and built his own philosophy. Nay furthermore, they say that the maxims of Pythagoras are alone called holy, because he proceeded from the principles of Orpheus; and that the secret doctrine of numbers and whatever Greek philosophy has of the great or sublime has flowed thence as its first fount.
From our point of view the occurrence of the term 'first fount' should be highlighted. Orpheus is regarded as the source of the most sublime facets of Greek philosophy and I see no way of contending that Pico linked this mythical figure, or others mentioned in this quotation, with a Mosaic tradition. His views, as he mentions several times, can be interpreted in accordance with the Kabbalistic tradition, but it is the mythical poet and theologian who is responsible for the formulation of the concepts which will pater by expounded by Pythagoras too.
[pp. 137-142]

Related posts and series from this blog:

George Gemistos Plethon: Sources May 27, 2009
Which Plato, and which Platonism? July 11, 2009
Seek, and ye shall find July 12, 2009
"Gotta Serve Somebody" (on the religious identity of Marsilio Ficino) July 24, 2009
C.M. Woodhouse: scholar-soldier and philhellene August 31, 2009
Ficinus. Paganus? More on the religious identity of Marsilio Ficino. Juy 13, 2010
"A Different World"? (more on Ficino) March 6, 2011
An Inconvenient Pagan: The Story of George Gemistos Plethon March 7, 2011
"George Gemistos Plethon was a crypto-Pagan." March 16, 2011
Hanegraaff on Plethon: "The Pagan cat was out of the box." March 16, 2011
"The Christian appropriation of Platonic philosophy and the Hellenic intellectual resistance" April 27, 2011
How To Look for Crypto-Pagans, 2.0 May 6, 2011

The Heathen-Minded Humanists: On The Revolutionary Pagan Conspiracy of 1468
Part One provides the background of the struggle between Pope Paul II and the Roman Academy
Part Two describes the crisis of 1468
Part Three (which I haven't posted yet) presents the denouement, in which all charges are dropped and the Heathen Academy survives intact
Part Four tells the tale of the surprising evidence discovered four centuries later of the literally underground Paganism that existed in Rome in the 15th century
Part Five looks at the other Roman Academy and its head, Cardinal Bessarion.

Forsaking Christ to Follow Plato (Or, Was Michael Psellos a Christian?)
  • Part One: Mostly Basil Tatakis' Byzantine Philosophy, with a little help from Jaroslav Pelikan, Katerina Ierandiokonou, John Myendorff, and even C.M. Woodhouse
  • Part Two: N.G. Wilson's Scholars of Byzantium
  • Part Three: Anthony Kaldellis' The Argument of Psellos' Chronographia
  • Part Four: Michael Psellos and the Chaldean Oracles
  • Part Five: Michael Psellos and "Ho Ellênikos Logos" (this is the post you are reading right now)

Friday, May 18, 2012

"How to witness to Buddhists" (Meet Jim Stephens, Evangelist to the Buddhists)

When I first started looking more closely at the creepy stealth evangelism of John Morehead (as discussed here, here and here), I had no idea that there existed such an extensive rats' nest of evangelizing efforts aimed at modern western adherents of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Paganism. But every time I found the name of yet another missionary that John Morehead has collaborated with over the last 25 years, yet another network of missiological schemes aimed at "alternative" religions came into view.

This post focuses on James C. ("Jim") Stephens, who wandered in the wilderness of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism around the same time that John Morehead was involved in an LDS splinter group (Community of Christ, aka RLDS). Both men eventually (around the same time) discovered The One And Only True Way, and have ever since been laboring in the fields of the Lord in order to return the West to Christianity and return Christianity to theological homogeneity.

A highly revealing theme in Stephens' oeuvre is his obsessive hostility for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the way in which this contrasts so glaringly with his tenderhearted affection for the late Watergate burglar and jailhouse convert Charles Colson.

Buddhist Studies Center Expands
from a 1990 article in the journal of the U.S. Center for World Missions
"The Institute of Buddhist Studies has recently been renamed The Sonrise Center for Buddhist Studies, according to director Jim Stephens. Jim filed the following profile on this growing research center:

"Sonrise Center for Buddhist Studies' mission focuses on conducting research to impact the evangelization of the unreached Buddhist world.

"Our first objective is to provide accurate information about unreached Buddhist people groups. Second, we provide research and training for mission strategy and evangelism to Buddhists. For example, recently Soviet Christians working to reach the Buddhist Buriat people in Siberia requested additional information about how best to work among Tibetan Buddhists. So we sent off a 300-page report. (Incidentally, there are at least four Buddhist unreached peoples in the Soviet Union: the Buriats, the Kal-myks, Tuvinians and Evenks.)"

NEWS: America Becoming Fertile Mission Field for Buddhism
Christianity Today article from 1994 by Stan Guthrie
"In an attempt to discover the religion's appeal to growing numbers of Americans, Terry Muck [a board member of Morehead's Foundation for Religious Diplomacy], associate professor of comparative religion at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, interviewed Americans who had converted. 'The most common response I got was that it offered them a peace and contentment through the meditative technique," says Muck, author of Those Other Religions in Your Neighborhood. 'The idea seemed to be that American culture is so hectic and busy and stressful, and the various kinds of Buddhist meditation techniques [are] an antidote they hadn't found in … the Christianity that they had grown up with.'

"James Stephens, a former Buddhist who launched the evangelical Sonrise Center for Buddhist Studies in Sierra Madre, California, six years ago to develop information and training to evangelize Buddhists, estimates there are 2 million in this country. Other research says there are only 558,000 active Buddhists in North America.

Sharing the Way with the Middle Way: How to witness to Buddhists
by Darlene Franklin
"So, how do we share our faith with people who don't acknowledge needing anything outside themselves to find true salvation from their sin, spiritual suffering and decay? First of all, we must pray. Pray for opportunities to share and minister, for God to shine His light into the darkness created by Buddhism and offer to pray for your Buddhist friends and acquaintances. Your prayers mean a lot to that person, since he doesnt have a connection with God, says Jim Stephens, director of the Sonrise Center for Buddhist Studies."

I Was a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist For 14 Years
by Jim Stephens
"Convicted of my sin against a holy God, I laid down my burden at the Savior’s feet and gave my life to Him. That night, my wife — a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist for 16 years — also believed. What grace! Nichiren, the self-proclaimed Japanese True Buddha that we had followed for so many years, said that if he found a teacher greater than himself he would follow him. In our case, we were found by a greater Teacher — the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal God, before whom 'every knee shall bow.' Hallelujah!"

The Dalai Lama and 9/11
Jim Stephens interviews fellow Buddhaphobes Victor and Victoria Trimondi in 2003.
"What primarily concerns us about the interreligious ceremony in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is the level of naivety in the West. For the past 25 years, the Dalai Lama has quietly performed the Kalachakra Tantra ('The Wheel of Time'), the highest of all ancient Tantric initiations for tens of thousands of spiritual novices in the West; introducing Tantric ideology, secret sexual practices, and magic rituals integrated into the context of his religious-political worldview. Critical voices have been raised, while he continues to secretly transmit the Kalachakra’s prophetic vision of the establishment of a universal Buddhocracy (Shambhala) in which spiritual and worldly power are united in one person, the 'world emperor' (Chakravartin), wherein other religions will no longer exist."

The Buddhist Next Door
an article by James Stephens published in Ministry Today magazine in 2005
"The primary struggle for every generation that is dedicated to missions and evangelism is coming to terms with how does the true gospel get translated into mainstream culture without compromise? How do we keep our faith and maintain our moral and theological standards while still living in the midst of an increasingly pluralistic society?"

The Dalai Lama and the Anatomy of Politically Correct Buddhism

A 2008 video by the Sonrise Center for Buddhist Center, headed by Jim Stephens
"I will always treasure the precious memory of witnessing for our Lord with James [Stephens] (who is reading the media piece linked above on the Dalai Lama). We witnessed to the kids against the lies of Buddhism and the Dalai Lama together in Irvine, CA, when America’s public school kids lined up under the demonic prayer flags hanging overhead [waiting to enter the auditorium where the Dalai Lama would be speaking] and were required to address the Dalai Lama as “His Holiness” in 2004 ..." [Quote from the website of Dwayna Litz, friend and proud collaborator of Jim Stephens in the battle against demonic Buddhism, from her post: Who is the "Man of Peace"?]

4 days until the Kalachakra Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Stephens became positively unhinged in the Summer of 2011 because of Kalachakra Initiation offered by His Holiness in Washington DC in July. Here's an example.
"Is it any coincidence that US President Barack H. Obama is supporting a war in Egypt? That he’s called 'The Western Lama' by the Dalai Lama? By others in the Middle East, a King? That in 'Batman Begins' a 'supernatural secret society' out of the Himalayas is out to establish a new order of things by destroying the unredeemable Gotham City? That we presently are fighting a war in Afghanistan, where Greek magic came into contact with the teachings of tantric Buddhism. That out of the region of Swat, in Pakistan, Al Quaeda’s stronghold, Padmasambhava, the Tantric Tibetan Shaman launches out to Tibet where he conquers Tibet’s indigenous gods and converts it to Vajrayana Buddhism? That the hosts of the upcoming visit of the Dalai Lama to Chicago following the Kalachakra ceremony in Washington DC is the Theosophical Society , the White Buddhists?"

July 6 Brutal Earth Ritual Being Conducted by Time god,
the Dalai Lama in Washington, DC
And here's another example.
"Before providing an explanation of the Earth Ritual from a Tibetan Buddhist viewpoint, it is imperative to set the record straight from the beginning. What those on the ground in Washington, DC are witnessing is a physical religious rite of possession to establish the Shambhala Empire."

April 2012 Remembering Chuck Colson
"Colson’s speech was without a doubt one of the most memorable moments in our history as he clearly, nobly and unashamedly shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was as if we were on a modern day Mars Hill hearing the Apostle Paul reasoning with the crowd gathered at Areopagus. His life is a reminder for us to earnestly contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Thank Yeshua for giving us men like Chuck who fought the good fight of faith."

Why is the Dalai Lama Coming to San Diego?
by Jim Stephens, April 2012
"So since he’s in our neighborhood and works for the US government anyway, why not include a few gigs along the way? No seriously. His swing began three days ago in Hawaii where he and his entourage right about now should be preparing to catch a jet this afternoon to his engagements in San Diego which will be partially funded by Pam and Pierre Omidyar the founder of EBay. As winners of the 2011 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recognizing the impact of their extensive giving of over $1Billion, they also contributed over $50million dollars to the Hawaii Community Foundation funding initiatives such as the Pillars of Peace which co-hosted the Dalai Lama at two talks at the University of Hawaii. Deep pockets."

The Dalai Lama 101
A 12 part class series trashing and lying about Buddhism in general and His Holiness the Dalai Lama in particular "from a Christian perspective" by James C. Stephens. Here is overview of the first unit:
Choose Wisely: Jesus or the Dalai Lama
Synopsis: After the passage of the Immigration Reform Act in 1965, the religious demographic in the United States began to change radically as doors were opened to immigrants from nations professing a faith different than the traditional Judaeo-Christian European matrix. Discernment is a rare commodity in any age, but especially in a pluralistic society. Buddhism’s rapid growth is mapped out in this lesson introducing one of its chief spokesman, the XIV Dalai Lama, the god king of Tibet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Emily Yoffe: Religious Bigot

Emily Yoffe is the "Dear Prudence" advice columnist for Slate.Com. Her most recent column (scroll down for link) deals with a Christian woman whose husband has become a Wiccan. Yoffe's response is like something straight out of a Jack Chick tract, except for having better production values and also being prominently posted on what is supposed to be a serious news website!

Fortunately, Ms. Yoffe is having her ass handed to her in the comments section. Everyone should go there and join in the fun. The comments that are already there are worth reading through as an example of how to express outrage in a civil, well-reasoned, and yet forceful manner.

Here's a link to the article: Husband Gone Wiccan.

And as some additional food for thought, here is a profile of Jewish advice columnists from Jewish Women magazine: Jewish Advice Columnists from Miss Manners to Dear Abby. Yoffe talks quite a lot about how Judaism influences the advice that she gives. One wonders what her reaction would be if someone gave the kind of advice she has to a person whose spouse converted to Judaism!

Hat tip to Jason at the Wild Hunt!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Hidden In Plain Sight": More on John Morehead, Evangelist to the Pagans

This post is just a bibliography (with a few notes) of essential reading for anyone interested in the career of John Morehead, Missiologist Extraordinaire and Self-Appointed Evangelist to the Pagans. I'll probably add more to the list later, but this is a good start.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Mission Challenge of New Religious Movements
International Journal of Frontier Missions, 1998
"In 1993 I was privileged to be able to assist Jim Stephens as he served to prepare a special IJFM edition dealing with mission to Buddhists (IJFM, Vol. 10:3, July 1993). As a former member of a pseudo-Christian sect, and given my work as a Christian researcher and missionary to new religious movements (NRMs) after becoming a Christian, I was eager to someday explore the possibility of approaching a mission periodical about discussing the challenge of new religious movements to Christian missionary efforts. Thankfully, Dr. Hans Weerstra, the editor of IJFM, has provided us with just suchan opportunity."

The Watchman Fellowship: Morehead's former comrades in the spiritual war against "cults". Morehead joined Watchman in 1999, at which time the "discernment ministry" organization headed by Morehead, the "Truthquest Institute", merged with Watchman.

Tired of Treading Water: Rediscovering and Reapplying a Missiological Paradigm for 'Countercult' Ministry
paper presented at the annual meeting of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, New Orleans, 2000.

Missiological Paradigms (2002)
Presentation to the annual meeting of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions
“Listening to the concerns of our critics [cults] …making changes in our ministries in light of any valid criticisms they may bring.”

Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach
Irving Hexham, Stephen Rost, John Morehead, published in 2004
excerpt from Introduction:
"Toward the end of the twentieth century, a new climate of opinion concerning new religions began to be expressed by Christian authors writing from different reference points in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Through various books, journals, and periodicals, they began to question the evangelical understanding of many new religious groups and movements, and the effectiveness of the dominant apologetic methodology in reaching their adherents. Many argued that the apologetic refutation of 'cultic' teachings had not translated into effective communication of the gospel to new religionists in understandable terms. They indicated that this impasse might be overcome through an interdisciplinary methodology that would include the integration of contextualized mission principles into the apologist’s task."

Insights from Communications and Missions for New Religions
A 2005 article by John Morehead published at the StandingTogether.Org website.
"The history of missions teaches us that the most effective evangelism takes place within the context of relationships. This may be one of evangelicalism’s greatest challenges as we face our need to move increasingly outside our evangelical subculture in order to develop relationships with our neighbors representing differing religions. We should also remember that these relationships need to be authentic and open, and not merely a means to the end of evangelism. Evangelicals might consider that not only do we have something to offer in relationships with those of other religions, but we can learn things of value from these relationship partners as well."

John Morehead on Ronald Hutton 2005

John Morehead on Ronald Hutton 2007

John Morehead interviews Irving Hexham 2007
"Irving, it is a pleasure to be able to talk with you and to learn a few important lessons about religion in our global culture. Let's start with a little of your background. How did you come to the Christian faith, and where did you pursue your academic studies?"

John Morehead interviews Karla Poewe 2007
"In your book you mention certain forms of Neo-Paganism played a part in the National Socialism of Germany. Of course, National Socialism and racist ideologies are still to be found in Europe and the West today, and there also seems to be an increase of interest in certain expressions of Neo-Paganism with emphases on racial and ethnic emphases. How are some forms of Paganism connected to the New Right today?"

Burning Man Festival as Life-Enhancing, Post-Christendom 'Middle Way'
An interview with John Morehead from 2007
"Perhaps our careful theological and missiological reflection on these aspects of Burning Man might be used by the Spirit to provide the seeds for the church's revitalization and renewed credibility in the post-Christendom West."

The Western Institute for Intercultural Studies (WIIS) (founded 2008)
"In the past I worked through an organization called Neighboring Faiths Project, but various circumstances have come together to result in a transformation of this organization into something new ... WIIS represents an expansion and revision of the work begun several years ago under the previous organization that have been transferred over to the new ministry. For some time now it has been my desire to help evangelicals and mainline Protestant Christians come to a new way of understanding the new re movements in America and the Western world, one that shifts from viewing many of them as 'cults' to a broader framework that understands them as religious or spiritual cultures or subcultures. Within this context I have been pursuing a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the new religions, and have also been reflecting on the history of Christian missions and cross-cultural missiology as sources that can inform how the story of Jesus might more appropriately be shared with those pursuing alternative spiritual pathways." [from the Morehead's Musings blog]

New Religions, Subjective Life Spiritualities, and the Challenge to Missions in the Post-Christian West
By John Morehead (July 2008)
"One of the greatest challenges the Church faces in the modern Western context is the general turn away from interest in and involvement with institutionalized forms of religion, such as Christianity, and the corresponding move toward an inward and subjective expression of spirituality."

JOHN MOREHEAD and Friends: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?
by Carol Guffey February 28, 2008
This is a very interesting attack on Morehead by an evangelical who thinks Morehead is too cozy with teh Pagunz. That, of course, is perfectly predictable, and if that's all there was to it, this kind of attack would only serve to highlight Morehead's role as the "soft-cop" to the more typical evangelical "hard-cop". But what's interesting is the background the piece gives on Morehead's biography, and especially his trajectory from splinter group Mormon (Community of Christ, née RLDS), to ex-Mormon counter-cult activist, to the "more sensitive and holistic approach" of Moreheads current missionary efforts.

John Morehead on Ronald Hutton 2009

John Morehead on Ronald Hutton 2010

Lausanne Issue Group on Religious and Non-Religious Spirituality Set to Meet in Hong Kong (May 2012)
"This strategic group continues to address the often-neglected missional challenge of new religious movements, alternative religions and emerging spiritualities in the Western world. After the 2004 gathering the group completed a substantial document on this topic in the form of Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 45 that was published in book form in addition to the electronic file on the Lausanne website. The issue group has also created a website in preparation for a mini-consultation in Hong Kong at the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre 30 September to 6 October 2006."

Also of interest: back in the 90s, Morehead was something of a "specialist" in Anthroposophy:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Having killed and buried African traditional religions ..."

In 1998 Rev. Dr. Timothy M. Njoya published an article titled The Church as a Global Society. In the article Njoya, a minister of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (now retired), stated very bluntly that "Africa became Christian by submission, not by conversion," and he makes it clear in the article that by "submission" he is referring directly to the enslavement and colonial conquest of Africans by European Christians.

It is important to note that not only is Njoya a Christian minister, but, unlike many of his fellow African Christians, Njoya's attitude toward African Traditional Religion is uncompromisingly hostile. He has no interest in projects such as so-called indigenization or Africanization. He does not regret the Christianization of Africa, much less the extirpation of Africa's pre-Christian religious traditions, regardless of his qualms over the details of how these were accomplished. In fact he goes so far as to say, "Having killed and buried African traditional religions, Christianity should have gone to celebrate and left the task of exhuming them to archeologists."

So here we have an honest and well-informed Christian! It pains him to admit that the only reason he is a Christian is because his great-grandparents were conquered by Europeans. But still he has the honesty to admit it. And he shows no interest in trying to sugarcoat the intolerance of missionaries toward "Heathen" religions, and why should he, since he himself proudly shares that intolerance.

Friday, May 11, 2012

"In obedience to the Great Commission": On the creepy stealth evangelism of John Morehead

This post mostly consists of excerpts from:
Ministry to Alternative Spiritualities in Religiously Plural America: Moving Beyond Confronting "Cults"
by John W. Morehead
First published in the Fall 2003 edition of Occasional Bulletin, published by Evangelical Missiological Society
(direct link to full text as reprinted at the Primum-Mobile. Net website):
In obedience to the Great Commission, missionaries and missiologists have devised effective evangelistic strategies in order to reach thousands of people groups within the world religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and folk and tribal religionists in their home countries. This is as it should be. Our Lord commanded the church to make disciples of the nations (Mat. 28:19), referring not to individuals defined by geopolitical boundaries so much as distinct people groups defined more by a social structure that incorporates not only the obvious elements such as language and cuisine, but also worldview and religious considerations as well.

But while the missions community has recognized the people groups of the world religions, it has not always recognized the importance of reaching the millions of unreached peoples involved in new religious movements, new age, and neo-Pagan groups and other religious traditions that have taken root in Western society. Estimates vary as to the number of new religions in North America, with a conservative estimate at somewhere between 700 and 1,000.2 Examples of growing new religions include not only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses), but also the Brotherhood of the Cross and the Star, Iglesia ni Cristo, Mahikari, Rastafarianism, Santeria, Siddha Yoga, Umbanda, Western esotericism, the New Spirituality (or new age), as well as emerging Do-It-Yourself Spiritualities, Western Hinduism, Islam, and revitalized forms of missionary Judaism. The continuing forces of modernization, secularization, and globalization may provide the social context for the continued growth and spread of religious groups and movements such as these and others around the globe. The new religions and world religions in the West are no longer fringe cultural phenomena, but represent serious cultural and religious movements worthy of attention by missionary strategists, career missionaries, and evangelical academics.

In the article Morehead makes five specific proposals for future missionary work along the lines he is suggesting. The fifth of these five proposals is to develop new and innovative ways to train missionaries in how to effectively target Pagans, etc:

5. Provide seminary students with field experience. To raise awareness among a future generation of missionaries and missiologists, we might explore ways in which students pursuing missions studies can be given practical field experience in sharing the gospel with adherents of new religions. Such programs would include practical assignments such as an interview with a Mormon or a Wiccan high priestess, for example. This interview would then result in an essay prepared by the student where they would explore the theological, missiological, and apologetic issues that arise from such encounters.

Here is revealed, in all its glory, the true, unvarnished thinking of an unreconstructed Evangelical Christian, who views Mormons and Wiccans as equally "lost" and in need of having the gospel of jebus "shared" with them.

And here is how Morehead finishes up his article:

The challenge and opportunity posed by the new religions is monumental. If we do not respond in obedience to our evangelistic mandate, surely we must respond in order to perpetuate the Christian faith in our postmodern climate of religious diversity, where evangelicalism hovers on the cultural fringe. As David Hesselgrave has stated, "During the era of modern missions, evangelical missionaries have focused on adherents of the major religions and, especially, on folk religionists. As we enter a new century and new millennium it is becoming increasingly apparent that we must also focus on millions who are being caught up in new religious movements emanating from both East and West. They constitute not only a new 'mission field,' but also one of our most aggressive competitors for the allegiance of multiplied millions who are turning away from the faiths of their fathers." As international mission leaders prepare for Lausanne 2004 in Thailand, it is my hope that the often-neglected mission fields of the new religions and world religions receive the attention of the missions community in fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Sadly, John Morehead has met with more than a little success in his efforts at evangelizing Pagans and others who have turned "away from the faiths of their fathers". And what makes it truly sad is the eager assistance he has received from some prominent Pagans who now, wittingly or wittingly, are actively participating in Morehead's ongoing project to retool and rebrand the Great Commission.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The growth of Buddhism and Hinduism in the U. S.

In the 60s and 70s young people began to flock to "eastern" religions in an unprecedented way. For the first time in nearly two thousand years, westerners in significant (albeit still small) numbers were not merely leaving Christianity, but going somewhere else. And that "somewhere else" was, in large part, the religious traditions of the Sanatana Dharma: Buddhism and Hinduism.

At the same time that this was happening, America's racist immigration laws, which had been intentionally engineered to keep out non-Europeans and non-Christians, were radically liberalized. This resulted in a steady stream of new Asian immigrants to the U.S., a significant portion of whom were Hindus from India.

While still quite modest in absolute terms, the resulting transformation of the American religious landscape, when viewed in the proper historical context, has been dramatic and one could even say momentous. Every major American city, and a great many not-so-major ones as well, now have (1) their own Buddhist and Hindu Temples supported by local Asian populations, as well as (2) various of groups of home-grown "convert" Buddhists and Hindus. Sometimes the immigrants and home-grown converts intermingle, but often they form fairly distinct and separate religious communities.

Today anyone with an internet connection can go to google and search for Hindu Temples, Buddhist Temples, Zen Centers, Satsangs, etc, in their local vicinity. Here are some examples (these urls also illustrate the basics of how to "roll your own" google searches, in case you ever wondered):

Houston Buddhist Temples:

Jacksonville Satsangs:

Memphis Hindu Temples:

Oklahoma City Buddhism:

Omaha Tibetan Buddhism:

For more on the growth of Buddhism and Hinduism in the U.S., check out this press release from Baylor University Professor J. Gordon Melton, who was in charge of assembling the data on Buddhists and Hindus for the U.S. Religion Census data just released by the Association of Religion Data Archive (link):

Buddhists and Hindus Are On the Rise Nationally, Baylor University Professor Says

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, 254-710-3321,

WACO, Texas (May 8, 2012) - Hindu and Buddhist groups have grown steadily in the United States since changes in immigration laws in 1965 and 1992, with particularly high concentrations in Texas, California, the New York Metropolitan Area, Illinois and Georgia, according to a Baylor University professor who helped compile the newly released 2010 U.S. Religion Census.

"Both Buddhists and Hindus, though still relatively small compared to the large Christian groups, have grown to the point that they are beginning to exert significant influence on the key issues that most affect their lives," said J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of American Religious History with the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, who was in charge of assembling the data on both groups.

The census, the most comprehensive statistical assessment of data from the 2,000-plus religious groups active in the United States, is made every 10 years by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. The complete summary may be viewed at this link:

Both Hindus and Buddhists have temples in most states, and "the groups now regularly voice their opinions on U.S. relations with predominantly Hindu and Buddhist countries," Melton said. "Like the Muslim congregations, Hindus and Buddhists are found in every part of the country, but they are concentrated in the big cities and still have not begun to appear in the smaller cities and rural areas."

Another significant finding was that all areas of American religion have grown, although specific groups -- especially some of the larger Christian churches -- have declined or stagnated.

Southern Baptists, whose ranks grew spectacularly for a generation as it became a national organization, decreased dramatically since the year 2000. United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran membership also decreased.

Both Muslims and Mormons (Latter-day Saints) showed dramatic increases in percentages, the former from both immigration and penetration of the African-American community, the latter from movement out of its base in the Mountain states to all parts of the country. Muslims are distinct as the majority are of Indo-Pakistani background, the second largest group being African-American, with Arab Americans a distinct minority. There are now some 6 million Mormons and 2.6 million Muslims in the country.

Other findings showed that traditional patterns continue. The Baptist Bible Belt remains across the South, the older Reformation Protestant churches are strongest across the Midwest, Latter-day Saints dominate in the Mountain West, and Roman Catholics dominate in the northeast and southwest, including the southern third of Texas.

Rodney Stark, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and co-director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, said the census in unique in its attempt to: (1) gather data from participating churches on a congregation-by-congregation basis; (2) compute membership in churches (as opposed to religious preferences as measured in national polls); and (3) assess data at the state and county level.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Consider one aspect of the nightmare: the Buddhist world."

Here is an excerpt from the book Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Mission in the Twenty-first Century by Frances S. Adeney and Terry C. Muck. One of the authors, Terry C. Muck, is on the board of directors of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. Here is a link to the book at googlebooks.

We Christians desperately want to think we are still [sic!] having a positive effect with traditional mission efforts. And it is not hard to produce evidence that seems to support that belief. Never before have more missionaries been sent to 'foreign' fields: American missionaries, European missionaries, Korean missionaries, Indian missionaries. Tens of thousands of people convert to Christianity each year as a result of these efforts. Christianity is still the largest religion in the world, with almost two billion members.

But what do these numbers mean? Consider: never before have more Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim 'missionaries' been sent to 'foreign' fields. Tens of thousands of people convert to Buddhism and Islam each year as a result of these efforts. Islam grew faster than Christianity in the 20th century, and Buddhism has become a viable religion in both Europe and North America.

In fact, when Christian growth numbers are considered as a percentage of world population, for the last hundred years the results of the Christian mission movement have remained stagnant. According to David Barrett and Todd Johnson in World Christian Trends [link to pdf here], in the year 1900 Christians made up 34.5% of the world's population; in the year 2000, Christians made up 33% of the world's population (2001, 4).

And what do we do about these realities? We talk about the places Christianity is still growing and ignore those where it is either stagnant or in decline. We was eloquent about growth that can't be measured or confirmed--house churches in China and background believers in the Muslim world--and pretend we don't notice the closing of national borders to Christian mission workers across the 10/40 window.

The growth of Christianity in the so-called southern world [sub-Saharan Africa] is indeed a wonderful story. But the status quo state of Christianity in the Middle East, North America, and Europe is a scandal. The lack of growth in Asia and South Asia is a nightmare. In those places where people have embraced an enduring world religion other than Christianity, we have had and are having little mission success.

Consider one aspect of the nightmare: the Buddhist world. The Christian mission movement has failed in cultures with a dominant Buddhist element. Lets generously define failure as at least a century of mission effort that has resulted in less than 25% of the people in such cultures coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

No predominantly Buddhist culture has ever been a Christian mission success, that is, with more than 25% of the people in the culture embracing Christianity.

Korea has come the closest. The most recent figures for South Korea have between 25 and 30 percent of the population identifying themselves as Christians. But if you add North Korea figures, the figures fall below our failure threshold. Other Buddhist countries don't even come close. Consider nine other Buddhist countries:

Country ... %Buddhist ... %Christian
Bhutan ...... 78 ........... 1
Cambodia .... 86 ........... 1
Japan ....... 55 ........... 3
Laos ........ 43 ........... 3
Mongolia .... 23 ........... 1
Burma ....... 73 ........... 8
Sri Lanka ... 68 ........... 9
Thailand .... 83 ........... 2
Vietnam ..... 49 ........... 9

Total the figures for these Buddhist countries, and you find that the Christian mission movement has resulted in an average of less than 5% of the population of these countries embracing Christianity, despite almost two centuries of mission efforts.

Lest we think that this is the norm for Christian mission efforts, compare it with the results from two other heavily missionized parts of the world, Oceana and Africa. The first Christian mission workers went to Africa in the seventeenth century, and by 1900, 10 million Africans knew Christ, that is, 10% of the population. By the year 2000, 360 million Africans had become Christian, 46% of the population.

The first Christian missionaries went to Oceania, the South Sea Islands, in 1843. By 1900 an astounding 76% of the population were Christian (5 million people), and by the year 2000, 83% professed Christ, 25 million people.
[pp. 8-9]


Friday, May 4, 2012

What they mean by "religious diplomacy"

"We are the Borg Christians. Lower your shields and surrender your ships souls. We will add your biological and technological spiritual distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

This post introduces you to the board of directors of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy: Terry C. Muck, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Morehead, and also the founder and chairman of the Foundation, Charles Randall Paul.

Dr. Terry C. Muck, Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary

The official "Mission" statement of the seminary where Muck serves as a Dean is as follows: "Asbury Theological Seminary is a community called to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world through the love of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father."

And here are some excerpts from the from the Asbury Theological Seminary's Statement of Faith:
The following is a statement, in short form, of the Wesleyan-Arminian theological doctrines on which Asbury Theological Seminary was founded in 1923.

We believe:

God In the one God, Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinite in love, perfect in judgments and unchanging in mercy. God exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

Scripture In the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both the Old and New Testaments, the only written Word of God, without error in all it affirms. The Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Holy Spirit preserves God's Word in the church today and by it speaks God's truth to peoples of every age;
Jesus Christ That Jesus Christ is God's Son incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary. He died for the sins of all, taking on Himself, on behalf of sinful persons, God's judgment upon sin. In His body he rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us;
Christians in Society That Christians are called to live in daily witness to the grace which comes to us in Je Christ, to preach the gospel to every person according to the command of Christ, and to declare God's insistence upon righteousness justice in all relationships and structures of human society;
Return of Christ In the personal return of Jesus Christ, in the bodily resurrection of all persons, in final judgment, and in eternal reward and punishment;
God's Ultimate Victory In God's ultimate victory over Satan and all evil and the establishment of His perfect kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth.
Terry C. Muck is also co-author of the book Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Mission in the Twenty-first Century, an excerpt of which can be found in this follow-up post: "Consider this one aspect of the nightmare: the Buddhist world."

Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University.

According to the MormonStories.Org website: "Peterson is known for his work as an apologist and scholar on subjects dealing with claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (link) Peterson and fellow Mormon Scott Gordon (President of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research--FAIR), are behind the Mormon Scholars Testify website (link), which Peterson proudly calls "a personal missionary enterprise" . That quote is from Peterson's Sic et Non blog (link), and in the same post Peterson also explains that he was inspired to start the Mormon Scholars Testify website after listening to the commencement speech given by Mormon Elder M. Russell Ballard (of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), at the Brigham Young University graduation ceremony on December 15, 2007, titled "Sharing the Gospel on the Internet". Here is an excerpt from that speech (full text here):
Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. You can download videos from Church and other appropriate sites, including, and send them to your friends. You can write to media sites on the Internet that report on the Church and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports. This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel. It is essential that you are able to offer a clear and correct witness of gospel truths. It is also important that you and the people to whom you testify understand that you do not speak for the Church as a whole. You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know.
It should be noted that Daniel C. Peterson is not, however, associated with the Ex-Mormon Scholoars Testify website.

John W. Morehead, founder and editor of the Sacred Tribes Journal.

In the first issue of "Sacred Tribes Journal", John W. Morehead addressed the question, "Why Sacred Tribes?". Here is how he frames the question in the opening paragraph:
New religious movements, New Age, Neo-Pagan, and minor non-Christian spiritual movements are a global phenomenon, and for over one hundred years have been the focus of evangelical critique and apologetic. In June 1980 the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization sponsored the "Consultation on World Evangelization" in Pattaya, Thailand. The purpose was to develop strategies for reaching unreached people groups. One of those groups was called "Mystics and Cultists," now referred to as new religious movements. The consultation formally recognized new religious movements as unreached people groups comprising frontier missions yet to be encompassed by the kingdom commissions of Christ.
A little further down, Morehead bemoans the fact that while previous attempts at evangelizing these "cultists" (uh, that would be us) had helped "Christians differentiate between biblical orthodoxy and heresy", nevertheless this work in the fields of the Lord had not "translated into any substantial evangelistic and discipleship efforts among adherents of new religions." But then Morehead states that this "impasse" can be "overcome" by "the integration of contextualized mission principles into the apologist’s task." Morehead then expands on that theme as follows:
Now in Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand several evangelical practitioners have been pioneering some practical ways in which the twin disciplines of apologetics and missiology can be complementary practices in the effective proclamation of the gospel to adherents of alternate spiritual pathways. What these western practitioners have discovered in the field is that methodology does not have to become an "either/or" polarization, but rather a "both/and" blending of apologetics with contextual mission principles rooted soundly in the Bible.

Direct link to Morehead's article: http://www.sacredtribesjournal...

Charles Randall Paul, founder and chairman of Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.

This is from Dr. Paul's "Testimony" at the Mormon Scholars Testify website (link):
In midlife, I realized that the Heavenly Father I believed in needed a better public relations agent. The various scriptures did not persuade that he is a loving heavenly father—more an absentee Dad making big promises, but without follow-through. For a while, Joseph Smith’s personal story about the close human family relation with God seemed too good to be true. I did not crave an all- powerful God as much as a persuasively loving God. God seemed distant to most people, and, therefore, I began pondering the thought that there might be a distant deity or no One at all.

I was blessed to meet two new people via their writings: the radical empiricist William James, who was open to More than categorical boxes of mechanism or idealism could contain, and the Christian existentialist Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose characters, especially in The Brothers Karamazov, moved me to see Christ in every aspect of the human soul. I came to believe in God the loving father through believing in the story of Jesus Christ who loved his heavenly Father. If this Jesus, the Lord of Dimitry, Ivan, and Alyosha, could vouch for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then I would pray to the old heavenly Father with confidence (again). William James reminded me that no one has ever been able to get to truth by jumping ahead of his or her subjective desires—that there has yet to be any education or esoteric learning that is the clear and obvious answer to all questions about the purpose of life and the nature of ultimate reality and happiness.

Philosophy is a useful skepticism that keeps us aware of our limited ability to understand things comprehensively; therefore we are wise to constantly explore without final affirmation or denial what might be true. Each religious tradition affirms a true way or ways of going, but none is so universally compelling that all humanity has chosen to follow it. So, the visit of the Father and the Son and other heavenly beings to Joseph Smith, and his ensuing distinctive, synthesizing revelations, are on the table with the rest of the human stories about the big questions. I believe the Latter-day Saints’ restoration of ‘open revelation from God’ will turn out to be one of the most positive, influential stories for billions of people in coming centuries.

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