Category : Other

Nichiren Shoshu / Soka Gakkai Buddhism Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of Nichiren Shoshu / Soka Gakkai. In this Profile, David J. Hesselgrave looks at the history, beliefs and practices of the group, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

The Kabbalah Centre Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of The Kabbalah Centre. In this Profile, Bob Waldrep looks at the history, beliefs and practices of the group, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

Mayan Calendar – 2012 Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of the Mayan calendar and 2012. In this Profile, Ben Williamson looks at the history, beliefs and practices of the prophecy, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

Kabbalah Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of kabbalah. In this Profile, Phillip Arnn looks at the history, beliefs and practices of the philosophy, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

Benny Hinn Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of Benny Hinn. In this Profile, Justin Peters looks at the history, beliefs and practices of the popular teacher, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

Gospel Assembly Church Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of the Gospel Assembly Church. In this Profile Travis Kerns looks at the history, beliefs and practices of this group, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

Iglesia Ni Cristo Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of Iglesia Ni Cristo. In this Profile Anne C. Harper looks at the history, beliefs and practices of this group, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

Islam Profile

We’ve put online our Profile of Islam. In this Profile, James Walker looks at the history, beliefs and practices of the religion, and provides a Christian response. You can receive new Profiles by ordering your free subscription to the Watchman Fellowship Profile today!

What Did Jesus Say About False Prophets?

 

If you’ve ever traveled, you know that a map or a detailed, reliable set of directions is essential for reaching your destination. I love Internet maps, but I’ve also been frustrated when a set of directions I printed sent me across town from where I intended to go. It’s far more serious to be directed off the “narrow” way onto the “broad” way by a pseudo-Christian teacher.

It’s common to read Jesus’ warning against false prophets as referring to heretics who change or deny the Christian faith. Such an understanding certainly has some validity, but Christ is referring to a less obvious – and therefore even greater – danger: false teachers who arise within the Church. His reference to coming in “sheep’s clothing” while being “ravenous wolves” (7:15) tells us that such individuals will appear to be faithful teachers and leaders, but they nonetheless are impostors who will spiritually harm Christians. Such false prophets, Martin Luther says, “grow up among you, bear and boast of your name”…but they cunningly reach after the doctrine, that they may take the treasure itself out of my heart, namely, the dear word.” He even adds that false prophets can be found among ordained pastors, warning that they can be “irreproachable and outwardly indistinguishable from genuine preachers”…hav(ing) the valid office, and in addition they give such a beautiful impression and appearance.”

This makes the situation particularly tricky: it’s easy to discern when someone is obviously outside the Church and determinedly attacking it, but how can we tell when someone inside the Church is a false prophet? Jesus answers by telling us to look at the teacher’s fruit (7:16-20). But what are these fruit?

Commentators generally recognize two types of fruit being alluded to in this passage: the fruit borne by teaching, and the fruit borne by character. Regarding the fruit of true teaching, Luther says Christians – and certainly pastors and teachers – “must hold on to the chief part, the summary of Christian teaching and accept nothing else: That God has sent and given Christ, His Son, and that only through him does he forgive us all our sins, justify and save us.” Augustine says about the fruit of character that the “bad fruit” borne by false prophets are the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), while the “good fruit” of true Christian teachers is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). David Scaer adds, “In the light of the Sermon, these fruits are love of the neighbor, reconciliation with the enemy, and performing good to all people indiscriminately.” John Chrysostom points out that it’s impossible for a pseudo-Christian to pretend for long to have these virtues, saying, “It is possible to find some virtuous persons living among heretics. But among the corrupted of whom I speak it is in no way possible. “˜So what difference does it make,’ Jesus says in effect, “˜if even among these false prophets some do put on a hypocritical show of virtue? Certainly they will soon be detected easily.'”

This leads directly to Jesus’ next point: those who engage in ministry in order to call attention to themselves fail to do the Father’s will (even if the works they perform are themselves good), and such people will ultimately be condemned (7:21-23). The mere ability to perform tremendous works in itself signifies nothing – Jesus elsewhere warns that false christs and prophets will use mighty works to deceive Christians (Matthew 24:24), Paul says that the Lawless One will work miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9), and the apostle even exhorts against listening to spirits who teach false doctrine (Galatians 1:8). This is why Luther teaches regarding miracles, “I will first see to it what the miracles tend to, and will carefully examine whether they really serve to strengthen my faith in the word, namely, that Christ died for me, that I through him may before God become pious and be saved; then, that I may pursue my calling and faithfully attend to the same.”

 

Flow, Leela and Eastern Religion

 

The Los Angeles Times recently featured Leela, a new videogame from Deepak Chopra that, according to the game’s product page, “combines ancient relaxation and mediation techniques with technology to bring focus, energy and balance to your life.” The point of the game is “chakra-based meditation. Through seven mediations and movements, Leela helps you focus and connect with specific areas of the body to relax and enter into your personal flow state.”

Chopra’s videogame is the latest in a recent spate of applications – particularly for the iPhone – making available Eastern meditative techniques through modern technology.

What makes Chopra’s game unique (beyond its being developed for a gaming console) is the explicit linking of the game’s goals to flow, a psychological concept created by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi which describes the energized and focused mental state a person can enter when engaged in an activity with clear goals and in which the participant is confident of success.

The Flow Concept is an increasingly important part of positive psychology (or, as Time magazine calls it, “the new science of happiness”), which researchers investigate ways to increase and enhance people’s enjoyment of daily life, engagement in life activities, and association with others. Incorporating the Flow Concept into the workplace has become “the Holy Grail“ for many employers, who want their employees’ primary satisfaction in life to come from their contribution to their companies.

The general psychological principles stated in the Flow Concept are sound: everyone has experienced the old cliche that “time flies when you’re having fun,” and our work is more enjoyable when we can “get into” our activities rather than simply grinding out the time until the end of the workday. The Christian understanding of vocation affirms the value of work, and the pleasure we can experience when fulfilling our calling.

The Flow Concept itself, however, is linked to a very different spiritual understanding of the Eastern religions. Csikszentmihalyi, in explaining applied positive psychology, writes that “the Eightfold Path of Buddhism formulates one of the most influential prescriptions for how an individual can create a good life by mastering attention.” Other specialists in happiness research see “an obvious link between flow and the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, or the kind of attention involved in meditation and yoga. Indeed, Csikszentmihalyi argues that Hatha Yoga in particular is one of the best models to describe what happens when psychic energy is flowing along a single channel of consciousness.”

The growing popularity of the Flow Concept with workplace psychologists and efficiency experts spotlights the need for spiritual discernment in all aspects of our lives. While relatively few people are likely to change their religious perspective due to Deepak Chopra’s new videogame – even with Chopra cloaking his Hindu theories with psychological terminology – it is much easier to a person to find that a seemingly neutral theory like Flow has been the stepping-stone to Eastern religious thought. The Flow Concept, even more than Chopra’s Leela, represents the mainstream absorption of Eastern spiritual concepts into daily Western life.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with developing habits and disciplines to increase our productivity and enhance the enjoyment we experience in our activities. At the same time, however, Christians’ lives are rooted in Christ and flow from our relationship with him; our enjoyment is therefore a gift from God, rather than the result of the Eastern understanding of experiencing oneness through our work – or our videogaming.