by Richard Bennett
Anglican Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, and author of Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting Your Mind, lives deeply and unhappily awash in a world of particulars from which he has found no escape. He says his book “is a snapshot of the world in which I live. I wrote it because the Christian world for me is no longer as life-bearing as it once was. In fact, much of it is downright toxic.”1 Alan Jones is not alone in his disenchantment with Christianity nor, apparently, does he comprehend the source of his confusion. There are many today who call themselves Christian and many with them who would not call themselves Christian, and all of them together are milling around in and out of seeker-friendly churches, mega-churches, purpose driven churches, emergent churches, and every kind of liberal church that does not present the Gospel. Neither do such churches worship God in spirit and in truth nor preach the Bible faithfully so that these poor folk might properly understand Who God is, what He requires of them, and what provision He has made for them. These are potentially Alan Jones’ audience.2 Their lostness and their ignorance make them especially vulnerable.
Jones is speaking in the wake of the 1960’s cultural revolution and Vatican Council II to a generation to whom moral relativism, irrationalism, and Roman Catholic ecumenism are fast becoming dominant forms of thinking. This generation must navigate on the present intellectual high seas where moral absolutes are a thing of the past, and logical opposites are simultaneously held as valid. Rather than an emphasis on logical thinking based on the absolutely rock-solid historical fact of God’s revelation to man through His Written Word, visualizations, imaginations, and images based in the lusts of the mind are fast becoming a predominant mode of teaching. In such turbulent waters as these, Alan Jones’s book is hardly a strange navigational star.
Indeed, Alan Jones is having a worldwide influence, as a quick perusal of the Internet will confirm. But his influence does not stop with lecturing world wide to ordinary individuals. Much more serious is the political and international recognition that Alan Jones is receiving. In the midst of bloodiest attack on Israel by Hezbollah guerrillas in July 2006,3 “British Prime Minister Tony Blair [was present] at Grace cathedral 2006...[as was] Afif Safieh, the Palestinian Authority’s official representative to the U.S. [B]oth worshipped at Grace Cathedral on Sun., July 30. Mr. Blair, [who was] in San Francisco as a part of a five-day official visit to promote trade and environmental issues, attended the 8:15 a.m. service as a private worshipper.”4
What is critical is Jones’ effort to influence the world community by endorsing the United Religions Initiative (URI). In this he follows in the same path as his predecessor, Bishop Swing, who conceived the idea of the URI in 1993. The purpose is to create a United Religions, a world parliament of religions, “a permanent assembly, with the stature and visibility of the United Nations, where the world’s religions and spiritual communities will gather on a daily basis, in prayerful dialogue and cooperative action, to make peace among religions and to be a force for peace among nations, to address urgent human need and to heal the earth.”5 This “peace among religions” is to include acceptance of Islam, something that the Papacy as already officially done.6 The political ramifications of this are transparent. For example, URI is to embark on the “International Day of Peace” on September 21, 2006. Of it, Kofi Annan says, “The International Day of Peace ‘is meant to be a day of global ceasefire, when all countries and all people stop all hostilities for the entire day.’”7
URI has two hundred and two chapters throughout the world, called Cooperation Circles. It is designed to evolve into a United Nations for Religions. While the whole emphasis is supposedly “spiritual”, a desire for legal power is evident in URI documents. For example, according to the Preamble to the Charter, URI plans a Worldwide Movement “...to support freedom of religion and spiritual expression, and the rights of all individuals and peoples as set forth in international law.”8
Alan Jones also has influence with militant feminists. For example on June 2, 1994, hundreds of women staged San Francisco’s “Renaissance of the Sacred Feminine Conference” at Grace Cathedral where Alan Jones is dean. Alan Jones not only participated but he “‘shared his delight in our ‘post-traditional’ culture and ‘the new ways and forms to express the spirit’. A worldwide sisterhood of angry, militant feminists is rising to power.”9
Alan Jones’ global impact in both religion and politics did not start on its own. Its launching pad was the Emergent Church movement. There Jones will continue dialogue with Brian McLaren in the fall of 2006 as Jones, from his position as Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, attempts to change the face of Christianity and the present day world.
Hooked on images from the start
Jones, whose book is endorsed by Emergent Church movement leader Brian McLaren, is an Anglo-Catholic by admission and claims to be Christian. As a boy he gave his heart to Jesus in Sunday school.10 But it is unclear which Jesus he means for he says, “...from the very beginning when I heard those Bible stories, I believed them but I believed them in a mystical way — as a way of communicating deep truths by way of images. I instinctively read the Bible as allegory and metaphor, not as literal truth...”11 He makes an important point when he says that the Bible stories communicated truth to him by way of images, and denies the fact that the Bible communicates literal truth verbally. In another place he says,
To posit that “We can get to the truth only through inference...there is no such thing as ‘what really happened,’” shows he believes God has not revealed to us truth about Himself and His creation that we can grasp with our rational minds. How cruel then to Jones’ perception must be the God whose invitation to the Israelites was “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. . .”12 Given Jones’s premise, how logical it is that in his darkened thinking, he offers idolatry through the use of “Christian images” as a primary way to come to a knowledge of God.
To whom ever Jones gave his heart, it clearly is not the Lord Christ Jesus of the Bible. He confirms this when he states,
Realizing that he could not live up to the standards of divine perfection that God requires of men, he states that he was saved by the love of well-meaning mortals. Jones’s own testimony shows that in spite of his undoubtedly sincere ritual of giving his heart to Jesus in his Sunday school class, he does not know the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Nevertheless, Jones states “Anglicanism is the one tradition that enables me to call myself Christian.”13 The reason for this is that the Anglican Church is, to use his own terminology, the “tribe” from which he sprang. Perceptively, he also points out that when he was young, “one could move through the whole ecumenical movement without leaving the Church of England. The church was a means of upward mobility....”14 Clearly, he has made the most of that means.
Flight to irrationalism
Casting aside the ultimate authority of the Bible as the basis of truth by which to understand his life, and by understanding Christianity simply to be the tradition in which he grew up — but one in which the contradiction between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism was and still is accepted as the status quo — he demonstrates that he has given up logic when he says, “It is not difficult for me to embrace contradiction. I can be Protestant, Catholic, agnostic, and devout believer all at the same time.”15 This “liberating freedom” as an irrational moral relativist has serious restrictions and problems, for he confides,
Since he has “never fully recovered” from his breakdown, one cannot be so sure that the irrational contradictions he holds are as easily maintained as he purports them to be.
The “inner, unintegrated world” of which Jones speaks Francis Schaeffer addresses in his book Escape from Reason16 as the very dilemma that Thomas Aquinas set in motion within the Roman Catholic Church in the thirteenth century when he took an unbiblical view of the Fall. Using pagan Greek philosophy as his escape route, Aquinas removed Catholic theology from under the absolute authority of the written Word.17 Deriving from Aristotle the famous principle regarding knowledge, “Nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses,”18 Aquinas maintained that human reason could prove the existence of God by means of the senses. He held that man had the ability to abstract general meanings from particular experimental data — exactly the premise on which McLaren, Tony Jones, Alan Jones and other “emerging” liberals are constructing their theology and practice. Under ways to know God, Aquinas added to the five senses, the powers of understanding, imagination and memory. Basically Aquinas held that the intellect and imagination make experience understandable by abstracting general principles of knowledge from the data perceived — precisely what Alan Jones does in Reimagining Christianity.
While Aquinas held to the Fall of mankind because of Adam’s sin, he still forthrightly taught that the intellect is always accurate as regards first principles, or basic knowledge including the knowledge of God. This he dogmatically held in The Summa Theologica. He wrote,
It is no wonder Catholic author G. K. Chesterton declared, “St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the great liberators of the human intellect.”20 — but not according to the truth as revealed in the written word of God. Twentieth and twenty-first century history is showing that the Papacy unleashed an unparalleled intellectual disaster in the West by demanding (for centuries coercing by torture and Inquisition) wholesale submission to Aquinas’s theology. The whole Roman Catholic religious system is built on it and even today has never deviated from it as their basis, post Vatican Council II. McLaren, Tony Jones, and Alan Jones — none of whom started as Catholics — trust their own and others’ powers of intellect and imagination, and each prescribes Roman Catholic dogma and mystical exercises as the route to finding a renewing excursion into religion.
That dilemma started by Aquinas is now bearing a bumper crop of deadly fruit throughout the West not only within the Catholic Church, but also outwardly into secular society, particularly through Catholic schools and educational institutions, as well as into Evangelical churches as they have gone liberal. This same destructive irrational mindset is now invading the more conservative Evangelical churches through ecumenism set formally in motion by Vatican Council II, particularly by means of dialogue with them and social action outreaches.21 A child of Roman Catholic ecumenism within the Anglican Church, Jones’s expression of his own personal “inner, [still] unintegrated world” is a prime example of this evil fruit. The lack of integration of which he speaks is seen in his insistence on the fact that a man cannot know truth, “there isn’t any such thing”; his ability to hold clear contradictions as valid; his flight from logic to imagination in order to keep his mind together under the tension produced by his irrationalism. He goes further than either McLaren or Tony Jones in his insistence that images are the necessary replacement for verbal communication. This is his heritage from thirteenth century Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas.
Packaging imaginations for export
Jones’s irrationality within the Anglican Church is now being transferred to a broader canvas in his necessity to build a global tribe in which everybody is included. He begins with the premise that “In nearly every major faith, strains of radical fundamentalism have been rising up, renewing or reintensifying faith conflicts that go back, in some cases, for millennia.”22 Defining religion as “our response to the ache of life,”23 he is upset that conflicting views of religion remain strongly held. Particularly those who hold the Bible to be literally true upset him, but so do strong-minded atheists. Rather than logically working through the issue of whether the Bible is literally true, however, Jones retreats into the New Age notion that there is an evolution in human consciousness, which he romantically views as centuries ahead of the spiritual primitiveness of literal belief in the Bible.24
The goal of his book is to reinvent Christianity because, in his opinion, “Religion is broken, and something needs to be done to fix it. It needs to be reinvented . . . Many of us feel that the old story of religion — the way it makes sense of our place in creation — is in need of serious revision...Human beings have always told themselves stories about their longings. In fact, this need for stories binds us together. We need a new way of telling the Great Story.”25 Given that premise, he states, “This book is about Christianity, its expression in symbols and stories, and how its practice can be redefined as art. . . .” (p. 2)
His dialectical method of argument demonstrated
To accomplish this end, he employs the same anti-biblical dialectical method of argument as do Brian McLaren and Tony Jones. Rather than logically defending what he posits as truth, Alan Jones’s method is always to tell a story or quote somebody (mostly Roman Catholics) as his premise or thesis — purposely something open to a veritable briar patch of interpretations because ambiguity is the desired effect, as he says. The next step is to pit the story against some idea (his antithesis) and move to a synthesis, or intermediate position somewhere between the story and his antithesis. The content of this synthesis then becomes the new thesis, which he then illustrates by a different story or anecdote. For example, he states,
Jones states that both he and Millbank believe in the Virgin Birth, but he uses it as a statement to float his thesis that we do not have any answers based on objective knowledge because the Virgin Birth is “a complex theological statement that none of us fully understands.” Next he introduces as an antithesis Millbank’s statement, ‘Jesus is essentially a linguistic and poetic reality’”. This statement is undoubtedly meant to shock the reader so that Jones’s synthesis — which comes in the next paragraph, “We live by images”, and is the more familiar concept — might be a bit more readily acceptable to those to whom idolatry is not now acceptable. Another example:
This man is an Anglo-Catholic in a church where for some time biblical doctrine and Roman Catholicism have both been accepted as valid. He is living in the tension between them. Often enough Roman Catholic dogma fits under his definition of “dogma seen as metaphor”. For example, Vatican Council II Document No. 28 states,
This paragraph from Vatican Council II falls directly under Jones’s definition of dogma as metaphor by bringing two essentially opposite ideas together which results in a tension that cannot be solved logically. It is not any wonder that Catholics turn to mysticism and idolatry, and Jones does the same.
So the process rolls from side to side while pointing up into the clouds of his mysticism and then down to the swelling waves of redefined words and data as his argument plows heavily along through circles of hopeless confusion until at last he has tethered it securely to idolatry.
Alan Jones, near perfect Roman Catholic ecumenist
As a writer, Jones, who reveres his Catholic classical education, has absorbed to near perfection the method for ecumenizing to Catholicism those dug into the religious traditions of Christianity but unprotected by the blood of Jesus Christ and the authority of His Word. The technique which Jones uses is clearly described in post Vatican Council II Document No. 42, “the Catholic participant [in ecumenism] must carefully inform himself of the content of his Church’s faith, without either overstating or minimizing it. . . .”28 Jones articulates and advocates Roman Catholic dogma throughout his book. He does not do the same for biblical truth. The same document under Part V, “Method of Dialogue”, states,
Throughout this book, Jones pounds on the idea that everyone must work for a synthesis of data offered in which no legitimate datum will be left out. Because the logical mind must reject such a synthesis, he continually hammers at inserting in men’s minds the superiority of imagination over objective revealed truth and historical fact, which leads him finally to idolatry through the use of “Christian images”. In this he looks to the future when the authority of the Bible is again erased and replaced by images, or the Dark Ages Revisited. He also presents both New Age and traditional Roman Catholic mysticism, carefully couched in ambiguously redefined Evangelical terminology, as the method for uniting everybody under a new all-inclusive tribe having one “global soul”, as he calls it.
Rebuttal of Evil by the Power of God
“The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”29 True Christians see God’s power and boldly proclaim His grace, every individual who is saved “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”30 The Gospel is the chosen instrument that God uses to deliver His people from irrationalism, imaginations, images, false ecumenism, darkness, and the power of Satan. Thus it is proclaimed, “but God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).”31 Sin is an evil of infinite significance since it is committed against an infinite Person. There is no way of escaping the wrath of God against sin except by God’s initiative, His grace. This grace is seen in the Lords’ promise to send the Holy Spirit, “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”32 The Holy Spirit convicts of sin as He makes the sinner realize his lost condition and brings him to sense his need of Christ’s righteousness. The Holy Spirit alone can impart spiritual life to the soul and supernatural light to the mind. Therefore the Lord Himself proclaimed the need for God’s proposal, “verily, verily, I say unto thee except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
Where irrationalism substitutes for the new birth, the cultivation of imaginations and images in place of the power of the blood of Christ, false ecumenism as a replacement for complete dependence on God, the carnal mind maybe attracted and human reason charmed but all this is destitute of any power to brings salvation to souls. There is no Gospel in Alan Jones’s system nor in the whole Emergent Church movement. In face of all of this, the grace of God still conquers, redeems and saves. The Scripture explains grace as power. Grace not only makes salvation possible but is also efficient and all-powerful to that end. The Lord God’s astonishing grace breaks the arrogance of the Emergent Church apostasy. How is God’s grace made a reality in one’s life? Simply by claiming the promises in His Word. We admit our lost condition and our need of Christ’s righteousness. We abandon our own efforts totally. We trust Him in His grace as we are sensitive to the conviction of His Holy Spirit. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.”33
The soul-destroying teachings of Alan Jones and his associates are demolished by the direct work of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. The Gospel alone remains the power of God unto salvation. In the face of subjective irrational speculations it is objective, rational, consistent, and all powerful. “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Richard Bennett of “Berean Beacon”
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