Pt. V: Bomar and Hetzler: Evidence for EC Sympathy?

 

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. (Proverbs 25:26)

 

But lets get to the core of concerning evidence in this area. This year’s Momentum 2007 featured Chuck Bomar:

 

Momentum Has Training to Reach Students

 

 CE National is excited to announce that among the many fine breakout speakers at Momentum 2007 will be two new faces, Chuck Bomar, from Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA, and Mel Walker, from Vision For Youth in Clarks Summit, PA.

Chuck, the Student Ministries Pastor at Cornerstone Church, will be leading seminars on reaching high school graduates in this generation, both for the entire conference and for Fusion. He is a frequent seminar speaker for Youth Specialties on the topic of Young Adult/College-Age ministries. He has started a young adult ministry from scratch and has served seven years in local church college-age leadership. http://www.cenational.org/cenational/newsBlog/index.asp?publicationDate=2/24/2007 

 

On Bomar’s website, collegeleader.org, one can clearly see EC affinities. One featured article, “Directing College-Age Hearts in Worship: More Than Music” by Joe Barsuglia talks about worship styles and various contemplative exercises (http://www.collegeleader.org/articles-church-ministry-details.php?articlesID=9)

 

Under the heading “spiritual direction and formation”, the author points to group silence, Lectio Divina, and the books of most of the major contemplative mystics like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, as well as Dan Kimball and Rob Bell’s Nooma videos.

 

Collegeleader.org links to Youth Specialties and Rob Bell’s Nooma video site: http://collegeleader.org/resources-links.php

 

Keep in mind that he is a speaker at Chan’s Eternity Bible College and the college leader at Chan’s church. What’s going on here?

 

Here’s the major alarm:

 

Bomar Comments on Emergents

 

Chuck Bomar was a special guest of the FUSION program for the entire week of Momentum 2007.  In a question and answer forum with the youth, all my fears were realized as he was asked about his view concerning the Emergent Church. What follows is crucial for the reader or listener to understand in that it really showcases why others and myself have every reason to believe that compromise is alive and well with some of the more dangerous elements of this paradigm.

 

The question posed to Mr. Bomar was “Do you support the emerging church?” and his subsequent response probably embodies my concerns with Momentum 2007:

 

Bomar:that’s a great question. Here’s what I’ll tell you. Tony Jones, who is the sole employee of Emergent Village is a friend of mine. I like him. He’s a phenomenal person. If you were able to sit down with him you would definitely want to spend more time with him. I think he’s nuts in a lot of ways. Theologically I don’t land where he lands in a lot of places but he is a phenomenal guy…”

 

Notice that he keeps describing Tony Jones as a “phenomenal” guy.

 

Bomar: (referring to Tony Jones)…”And he’s okay with me disagreeing with him. He’s totally cool with that. Doug Pagitt who’s also part of the emerging church and pastor of the church Tony goes to, Solomon’s Porch, um, cool guy but again I don’t agree with him theologically.”

 

Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt: “Cool guys” , “phenomenal” but Bomar doesn’t agree with them in many areas concerning theology.

 

Bomar continues: “Brian McLaren, met the guy once, he’s like a big teddy bear. Just a phenom – again, you want to spend a ton of time with him. He’s just the nicest guy. Again, I don’t agree with him theologically on everything.”

 

Let’s, first off, be thankful that Bomar at least claims not to agree with these men theologically and this will make the case far stronger that I am advocating here. These men are dangerous in what they teach and promote and CE National needs to steer clear of them. By having Bomar make these comments, I found myself just wishing he would really take a clear stand against the obvious danger associated with these men.

 

Danger, you say? Quickly consider the following:

If you have any question about where Tony Jones is coming from consider these facts and quotes: (taken from a Lighthouse Trails article and Faith Undone by Roger Oakland)

 

Oakland writes in Faith Undone: “After growing up in a traditional Midwestern church-going family, Jones became disillusioned. He took a three-month sabbatical from his job to travel to Europe where he visited a prayer center for young people. Known as the Reading Boiler Room, the center hosted a 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week prayer vigil and called themselves a "Generation X monastery." Jones also traveled to Dublin, Ireland, where he met with Catholic priest Alan McGuckian and the staff at the Jesuit Communication Center. He then spent time at Taize, a contemplative ecumenical community in southern France. Jones explains how this physical journey set him on a spiritual journey that revolutionized his thinking and spiritual beliefs:

 

Jones: “I voraciously read authors and books they didn't assign in seminary: St. John of the Cross, St Theresa of Avila, and Pilgrim's Way. I met with other Protestants, with Roman Catholics, and with Eastern Orthodox Christians. I took a long hike in the Red Mountains of Utah with a shaman” [a guru-type leader who practices altered states of consciousness).

 

Roger Oakland quotes Jones concerning how to pray the “Jesus Prayer”:

 

“Seated comfortably in a dimly lit room with the head bowed, attend to your breathing, and then begin the prayer in rhythm with your breathing. Breathe in: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God;" breathe out: "have mercy on me a sinner." Guarding the mind against all distractions, the pray-er focuses during every repetition on the meaning of the words, praying them from the heart and in the heart... In order to keep track of my repetitions, I use a prayer rope.

Jones says that monasteries in Greece make these prayer ropes. Each one has one hundred knots in it, and each knot holds nine crosses.”

 

Are these biblical practices? Another meditation practice Jones encourages is centering prayer. He states:

 

“Like the Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer grew out of the reflections and writings of the Desert Fathers... Unlike the Jesus Prayer, a repetitive prayer is not used. The pray-er is encouraged to choose a simple, monosyllabic word, like "love" or "God."

When the mind is distracted, this word is used to bring the mind back to focus on God.”

 

Oakland writes about how Jones’ attraction to mysticism was his desired course for a spiritual journey that brought him closer to God.

 

Oakland quotes Jones: “Maybe it's that there's something mystical and mysterious about these ancient rites, like we're tapping into some pre-technological, pre-industrial treasury of the Spirit.”

 

Roger Oakland observes: “Such a pragmatic approach to spirituality is a recipe for spiritual deception. Jones, whether he realizes it or not, has become an evangelist for the ancient wisdom [occultism]. Going into altered states of consciousness through repetitive chants and focusing on the breath have become part of his gospel message” (see Faith Undone, pp. 104-106 for citations).

 

Well said, Roger Oakland. A timely warning for any who would believe Jones to be nothing less than “phenomenal”.

 

Tony Jones has also said:

 

“Emergent doesn't have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that matter. Do you show up at a dinner party with your neighbors and ask, 'What's this dinner party's position on absolute truth?' No, you don't, because it's a non-sensical question."

 

Jones’ pastor, Doug Pagitt is an avid promoter of yoga and contemplative mysticism as well as the erroneous belief that we can be co-creators with God. We’ll deal with Pagitt in a future message but these gentlemen are bad news for the discerning believer.

 

Personally these guys may be “cool” but it’s a stretch to characterize them as phenomenal given the error they are into. In my opinion it is also detrimental to these dear young people to be introduced to these men, even with the caveats, as cool or phenomenal. In McLaren’s case that teddy bear’s got claws! http://www.apprising.org/archives/2005/12/brian_mclaren_a.html

 

Back to Bomar as he continues his answer and the concerns grow:

 

Bomar: “The one guy that I think that I could even work with in ministry fulltime is Dan Kimball. He has become a good friend, a support factor for me. I’ve stuck up for him as he’s been blasted on some blogs and different things. We really have clicked. Dan is a guy that has a conservative theology, which I would lean towards more but his methodology is as culturally relevant as you could possibly get. Somehow he’s taken a conservative theology and brought it to the culture today. And I have a ton of respect for him.”

 

 Basically, Bomar is saying by the above glowing endorsement that he is friends with, and has great respect for Kimball who is, albeit conservative in his theology, still a promoter of some emerging/ent beliefs. His “conservative” theology includes advocating the silence and meditative stillness techniques in worship. He also supports and endorses almost everyone else in the Emerging Church so, although Bomar disagrees in some points, he would actually work in full time ministry with someone many consider one of the leaders of this movement.

 

Herein be a problem and I agree with Apprising Ministries’ Ken Silva who warned Kimball that “if you don’t publicly disassociate yourself from apostate Emergent leaders like Brian McLaren and neo-orthodox (at best) teachers like Rob Bell then you are responsible for lending them your supposed orthodoxy.” http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/08/emergent_church_42.html

 

In this fashion Bomar’s emerging sympathies are clearly evident and once again I think this is a dangerous endorsement to be giving out at a CE National youth conference. My opinion again, of course.

 

 Dan Kimball says “we must rethink virtually everything we are doing in our ministries.” On Rick Warrens Internet site Dan Kimball writes “So, the emerging church is about is a re-imagining: re-imagining our preaching, our evangelism, and our worship services. A re-imagining of new types of churches and an opportunity to be rethinking all we do because we recognize that the next generation is at stake if we don't. (Ministry toolbox Issue #110 7/9/2003 Three Things to Know About the Emerging Church by Dan Kimball), and:

 

“We have the great opportunity to redefine the church to emerging generations."

—Dan Kimball, Youth Specialties Youth Worker Convention, 2002

 

We don’t have time to deal with the folly of the proposed need to re-imagine everything in the church and the “change or die” mentality that is being foisted on everyone from our culture, which is not the reference point we ought to be looking at for our ministries anyways.

 

My concerns with Kimball run deeper than even that rhetoric when we see the mysticism and contemplative practices he heavily promotes. In His book Emerging Worship, Kimball promotes Tony Jones’ book Soul Shaper:

 

 “In the book Soul Shaper, Tony Jones explains a lot of ancient spiritual disciplines and shows how they can be attractive ways of worship for emerging generations. Lectio Divina, which is the practice of repeatedly meditating and praying through a passage of Scripture, and many other spiritual exercises are being reintroduced in emerging worship gatherings." (Emerging Worship, 93, emphasis mine)

 

From The Emerging Church: Vintage Faith For New Generations, p. 223:

 

“We have neglected so many of the disciplines of the historical church [Desert Fathers], including weekly fasting, practicing the silence, and Lectio Divina.”

 

From Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations, p. 93:

 

“In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches, you'll find a well-developed calendar and more set pattern of worship. In many American branches of the church, however, liturgical practices were removed and forgotten a long time ago. Yet among emerging generations there is a desire to embrace Christianity's ancient forms of worship, which includes liturgy.”

 

In this piece called “Emerging worship: Moving beyond only preaching and singing” Kimball explains:

 

“In our church setting, we began bringing back ancient religious symbols and some rituals used throughout church history. We began using some forms of liturgy and responsive readings. Instead of “hiding” the fact that we were gathered to worship, we began praying more, having times of quiet, and teaching more deeply. The more “religious” we got, the more we saw response!

There is a richness to be found in looking back in church history and implementing ancient forms of worship, in addition to more recent ways. When choosing to implement something like *Lectio Divina* (a contemplative praying of the Scriptures) into a worship gathering, though, take a moment to teach worshipers the history of the practice so that it isn't perceived as just a gimmick.” http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/article.asp?ID=289&ArtID=10089

 

Kimball talks about the silence:

 

"As we spilled out into the dark night with the rest of the crowd, I felt that maybe something was happening here with the emerging culture, and we should take note. We put so much effort into designing contemporary church services that are peppy, upbeat, and cued down to the minute, but I’d just seen a large group of young people drawn to something quite the opposite. Perhaps we should consider that there's a rising longing to seek God in the simplicity and stillness of a meditative church experience. " From Dan Kimball's article, “In the Stillness”.

 

Kimball also promotes Henri Nouwen:

 

"[M]any in the emerging church are drawn to more of a loose, lesser emphasis on strategic goals and a non-hierarchical approach to leadership. Much like what is emphasized in the writings of Henri Nouwen. I've read Nouwen's book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership a dozen times. Reading that book convicts you to the inner core about motives and the heart of leadership." Dan Kimball, “The Paradox of Emerging Leadership”.

 

Nouwen believed in a far too pervasive unity between other religions and Christianity. As Ray Yungen points out Nouwen endorsed a book by Hindu spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran, teaching mantra meditation, illustrating his universalist views. On the back cover, Nouwen stated: “This book has helped me a great deal.”

 

Nouwen wrote “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God” (Henri Nouwen's last book p.51, Sabbatical Journey Crossroad publishing Co., New York,1998 Quoted in a Time of Departing by Ray Yungen )

 

Clearly this is a Universalist view promoting an interfaith message, which is becoming popular today.

 

“Nouwen also wrote the forward to a book that mixes Christianity with Hindu spirituality, “...the author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian.... Ryan [the author] went to India to learn from spiritual traditions other than his own. He brought home many treasures and offers them to us in the book.” (Thomas Ryan Disciplines for Christian Living, Paulist press, Mawah, N.J., 1993 pp.2-3 Quoted in a Time of Departing by Ray Yungen)

 

We can see how each connection influences another. Nouwen promoted “Thomas Merton was perhaps the greatest popularizer of interspirituality. He opened the door for Christians to explore other traditions, notably Taoism (Chinese witchcraft), Hinduism and Buddhism.” [Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World's Religions - Wayne Teasdale] Thomas Merton said he wanted “to become as good a Buddhist as I can” (Steindl-Rast, 1969).

 

Interfaith is the message. Merton wanted to see the religions of the world be in unity. Because of this influence Nouwen was able to say “a place for everyone in heaven” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, p. 53). (Above info taken from: http://www.letusreason.org/Popteac23.htm).

 

That’s a few of the late Henri Nouwen’s beliefs and Kimball promotes him.

 

Good balanced articles treating come of the concerns about Dan Kimball: http://teleological.org/theology/?p=29

 

http://www.9marks.org/CC/article/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598026%7CCIID2082654,00.html       

 

Back to Bomar: Keep in mind he would work fulltime with Dan Kimball who promotes these things. In case anyone has trouble with my interchangeable use of “emergent” and “emerging” to describe their “conversation”, Bomar seeks to clear that up to his questioner, and reveals several troubling aspects about Tony Jones and the EC:

 

Bomar: “The emergent movement; a lot of people try to pigeonhole them and say ‘This is what the emergent movement believes’ but that violates everything that the emergent movement is. What caused that is YS Zondervan, Youth Specialties Zondervan created an emergent line of books and these books were published, Emerging Church, Emerging Worship , which Dan Kimball wrote, Brian McLaren and some Tony – all these books  were in this line and because of the controversy, because of that one line they pigeonholed the emergent as this controversial thing when all it really was a group of guys that were friends that were having this conversation, all of them thinking each other were nuts theologically but they’re all friends.”

 

This explanation is only partially true and Chuck needs to read Roger Oakland’s new book Faith Undone which shows some far more detailed and frightening roots to what many call the emerging church movement. The fact that the Lilly Endowment is pumping thousands of dollars in grant money to emerging churches is also significant. He also needs to read the Emerging Church section of the lighthousetrailsresearch.com   page where the involvement of the Leadership Network is shown in launching what has come to be called the Emerging Church.

 

At any rate, this is far more and has mushroomed into far more that just a few guys hanging out and talking about things. There is an agenda and a whole new ethos at work here. Besides, if you publish books with “emerging” in the title and talk about yourselves as “emerging” why get upset about being pigeonholed? Does anyone else see the potential danger in publishing the conversations of a bunch of guys who all think each other are theologically “nuts” in major areas? Well, here we are…

 

Mr. Bomar’s comments serve to prove my point and validate my concerns wholesale. Bomar boils down the Emergent movement into this following trite explanation:

 

 “That’s all it is. Its opening up the discussion and rethinking, ‘Ok we’ve been stuck in these ways. Let’s look at scripture and where do we land’ and some of them land different.”

 

Some of them land outside of a biblical understanding of propositional truth and epistemology. And in some cases they are teaching things that are clearly outside the limits of sound doctrine.

 

So does Chuck support the emergent viewpoint and if so, why?

 

“So do I believe in the emergent movement? Yes I absolutely do because its forcing discussion and I like it. It holds the scriptures up because everybody disagrees. It’s forcing everybody to look here because this is the one objective source.”

 

Well, there you have it. Momentum 2007 speaker and college leader at Francis Chan’s church believes in and supports the emergent conversation. All I can say is that I believe it to be farfetched and dreamlike to assert that this collective group of “nutty” (tongue-in-cheek) theologians is actually holding up the scriptures by doing what they do. Can we have questions and doubts and should we look to scripture? Absolutely but many of the teachings, practices, and doctrines of the EC undermine and distort the clear teachings of God’s Word and this is a shameful reckoning of what’s happening here. Bomar’s flawed logic is further evident as he continues:

 

“I like it. I think it’s healthy. I think some heretical things are being said in the midst of it but its forcing thought and it’s causing the church to rethink some things too and at least have a reason for why they believe what they believe.”

 

Healthy and heretical? A mixture of truth and error? Listen folks we must beware this pseudologic being presented at Momentum during this forum. Attacks on the veracity and truth of God’s Word always serve as basis for exercising discernment and being certain of sound doctrine and practice but this is never to be considered good in itself and these challenging assertions and false doctrines should never be encouraged as something that needs to come from within the church. False teachers in the church are to be marked, avoided, warned, and rebuked and removed if they continue to teach heresy or deny the doctrine of Jesus and the apostles. Some of these men fit the biblical definition.

 

Nowhere in the Bible are we told that any “conversations” that combine truth and error are anything less than heretical and they should be avoided. Many of these EC thinkers should be soundly rebuked and confronted in obedience to the commands of Holy Scripture, not lauded as beneficial to the body of Christ. We must never do evil so that good may result and entertaining or being enamored with unsound doctrine is sinful not commendable.

 

Bomar returns to Tony Jones and tells this tale. You judge whether or not what Jones does is healthy, commendable, right, or “phenomenal” in any way, shape, or form then ask yourself whether having Bomar answer these questions was, although revealing, a good idea:

 

“Tony will frustrate you to no end. If you go to a Q & A with this guy, he will say things and he will not explain them on purpose. In fact if he gets a sense that you’re pigeonholing him, he will jump out and take a different role just because he doesn’t want you to pigeonhole him.”

 

One must ask is this proper conduct for a leader or Bible teacher? Consider this and decide:

 

His entire mission of ministry is to get people to think theologically about everything in life. I love it. That is phenomenal. But when you go to a Q & A with him and you ask him about theological ideas he will play ‘devil’s advocate’ and you think he’s gonna die on that hill. Have you ever heard a doctrine called original sin? Anybody not heard of that idea? It’s the idea that because Adam sinned, everybody sinned and it’s because of Adam’s sin, that’s why I have a sinful nature? It’s a man-written doctrine by the way. The whole church, the Christian church, the Protestant church, Brethren, Baptist, whatever you say will die on that hill like no other…”

 

Bomar needs to be careful here because he is taking a doctrine that when articulated correctly is taken from biblical passages like Romans 5 Original sin when biblically outlined, which is the way many of us understand, hold to, and teach it is a truth from Gods inspired Holy Word about the imputation of Adam’s sin to the whole human race. Tony Jones, according to Bomar, takes real issue with that and unwisely responds:

 

“Tony Jones says ‘I deny it. I deny the doctrine of original sin. Next question?’ and everybody’s like ‘What?’ they freak out. I don’t want to ruin his ministry but here’s his reason, because I had breakfast with him a few months ago…I actually asked him ‘Dude what’s your deal? I mean honestly what’s your reasons?’ And this is what he said; ‘Chuck when you read the actual doctrine that man wrote about that, it seems like it blame-shifts. It says I sin because he sinned and I deny that. Everything in me is sinful. I have a sinful nature it is my fault I cant blameshift it.’”

 

Bomar continues: “Does anybody disagree with that? Absolutely not, but when he’s doing a Q & A he says ‘I deny the doctrine. Next question.’ And everybody just freaks out.”

 

And well they should because this kind of deliberate misleading is dangerous and foolish and ought not to be foisted upon God’s people! This behavior is a menace to the church and one is hard pressed to find this behavior in the scriptures among God’s people anyways. We are never commanded to be deliberately unclear or provocative and mischievous as McLaren willfully confesses as his style in his book A Generous Orthodoxy. Jones is in danger of really causing his listeners to stumble because he purposely fails to clarify what he means and all in the name of shock value and the fear of being pigeonholed.

 

Surely Chuck Bomar finds this despicable as well especially since he understands the importance of clearly speaking to young people. Or maybe not: he says:

 

“All he’s trying to do is get people to think and I appreciate that.”

 

He appreciates it so much apparently that he brings his students to hear Tony Jones:

 

“I love bringing our students from Eternity Bible College or our university ministry, I love bringing them to listen to Tony because they freak out. But I’m there to walk them through it. I’m not going to answer the questions for them but I’ll help them think through it…I love it because I can walk them through it.”

 

So Bomar will also deliberately withhold answers that he is in leadership to help provide and all I can say is I’m sorry to hear that. Honestly, the irresponsibility level implied here is staggering and I really fear for the young people sitting even at this Q&A with Bomar at Momentum 2007. I just think its time to see a real backbone stance against foolishness like this. No more pandering to the EC and deliberately obscure teachers like Jones, McLaren, and well, those who find them “cool” or “phenomenal”.

 

Bomar’s final answer to this question at Momentum 2007 is very revealing:

 

“I guess maybe I’m immature. Maybe I need to grow in this but there’s a part of me that I’m a little concerned about people taking what I say and then holding weight to it. I don’t want to be a part of messing somebody’s theology up. I don’t mind at all helping people think through it, but that’s a deep-rooted tradition that I guess I’m too much of a weenie to do it and Tony’s not. That guy takes a lot of heat, a lot of heat. But I think people would actually agree with him more if they understood his reasons.”

 

Maybe but it doesn’t look like any of us are going to get straight talk anytime soon from men who have obviously decided to be deliberately mischievous, misleading and unclear. As for your words carrying weight in the ears of those God has appointed to listen, I can assure you they do and that makes Chuck Bomar’s answer to this question all the more concerning and I am saddened that CE National and Chan have said nothing about this recent development, or perhaps they have and if so I would love to hear it.

 

Finally, concerning whatever tradition Jones is drawing from in his hazardous haziness, well, if that means we who believe that the Word should be taught clearly, and that our answers should be cogent and clearer than ever before in these last days are likened to “weenies” , then slather me with mustard and join the picnic. (Hope I wasn’t being too unclear there).

 

What about Bob?

 

Remember earlier I shared about Bob Hetzler who works with the group forum for CE National and was part of the forum about the Emerging Church with Dr. Soto. Bob Hetzler lives in Southern California. He is on CE National’s YouthNet Commission and is the Director of Fusion for the Momentum Conference. He recently has launched a consultant ministry on the Millennial Generation and is currently assisting a church in Whittier in beginning a college ministry. I alleged that he is a bit sympathetic to the EC and I think his blog proves it. Recent entries have talked about the Emerging church with no real clear stand against some of these present dangers.

 

He links to Youth Specialties and the Leadership Network who feature not only EC teachers and concepts but outright promotion of mystical youth ministry. In fact, it can be demonstrated that much of what is referred to as the emergent church movement had its origin in the Leadership Network (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/leadershipnetwork.htm).

 

Concerned? I am. YS promotes eastern mysticism, yoga, breath prayers and contemplative techniques as well as a variety of resources from the EC. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/yspressreleasenovember.htm

 

Hetzler’s blogroll includes Chuck Bomar and Kary Oberbrunner.

 

Addendum: I have talked with Bob via his blog and he assures his readers that he doesn’t land where the emergents land in many areas. Hopefully he will clarify which areas in the near future.