[Editor's note: Shortly before he died, Pastor Rick Howard sent me several articles where he analyzed the Emergent Church Movement, the One Project and the progressive spirituality flooding into the church. Even though Rick's voice of experience and warning is now silent his words live on in his books and articles. This is one of the articles that Rick sent to me.]
An Analysis of Dr. Alex Bryan's paper “Adventist Ecclesiology and THE ONE PROJECT."
Alex Bryan is one of the founders of the One Project--an organization that seeks to integrate aspects of emergent spirituality with Adventism.
As expressed in the paper under review, we need to know why Dr. Bryan feels the Seventh-day Adventist Church has such a need of this new movement. We can more easily grasp the concerns Dr. Bryan has about the church he calls home, and its relationship to all other Christian churches, if we understand his beliefs concerning his own church. This is at the heart of the issue and is ultimately determined by Dr. Bryan’s personal beliefs relating to the meaning of the mysterious biblical “Babylon and her daughters” of the end-times. Thankfully, both Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy shine all the light we need to find the answers sought after. The Spirit of Prophecy says:
“Confusions of Babylon and Antichrist.--It is our individual duty to walk humbly with God. We are not to seek any strange, new message. We are not to think that the chosen ones of God who are trying to walk in the light, compose Babylon. The fallen denominational churches are Babylon. Babylon has been fostering poisonous doctrines, the wine of error. . . These and kindred errors are presented to the world by the various churches. . . .” (Evangelism P. 365.1).
And Scripture, in response to “Babylon is fallen:”
“For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:3–4 KJV).
We have the direct and simple inspired statement, “The fallen denominational churches are Babylon.” Then we read that “All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of HER fornication. . .”
Who are the nations committing fornication with? With HER, the fallen churches of Babylon. Who else could this represent, but more importantly, how does one read this and believe as Dr. Bryan believes, that the nations of the world are Babylon, when it says they are who are committing fornication with HER – Babylon. How and why does an error like this come to be accepted as truth? We shall see.
There is no doubt among SDA theologians that the Babylon of Scripture, referred to as “HER,” is shown to be the great apostate church of Rome and her daughters, the very Protestant churches of whom many have accepted and are teaching Emerging Church theology in their churches and schools. These churches have united--to a degree--with the Roman Catholic Church through the power and deception of spiritualism, subtly practiced by many Emerging Church practitioners.
Additionally, a woman in Bible prophecy is symbolic of a church, not a nation as taught in Dr. Bryan’s book, The Green Cord Dream. This teaching--while pleasing to the Roman Catholic Church, whose future plans are to regain control of the world as during the “Dark Ages”--is not biblical.
In their analysis of his book, The Seventh-day Adventists Biblical Research Institute discovered the danger to our young people in Dr. Bryan’s interpretation of Babylon. They said:
“A typical case of accommodation to modern trends in theology, even in some Adventist circles, is the author’s statement that Babylon is “representative of all totalitarian regimes throughout history” (p. 71). Most totalitarian regimes in history were political regimes; the little horn of Daniel and the Babylon of the book of Revelation is a religious power, and the religious power that fits the prophetic picture is the religion alliance of the papacy, fallen Protestantism and spiritualism; and our young people should know that too” (Pfandl, Reflections http://thegreatcontroversy.info/reflections--the-bri-newsle.html).
As noted, the Spirit of Prophecy is very clear in identifying the mysterious Babylon. The following statement is from The Spirit of Prophecy about the Babylon of Revelation Chapter 18:
“The whole chapter shows that Babylon that has fallen is the churches who will not receive the messages of warning the Lord has given in the first, second, and third angels' messages. They refused the truth and accepted a lie. They refused the messages of truth. See 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12” ( Selected Messages, Book 2, P. 68).
The truth about Babylon is not difficult to discover if we rely on the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. So how does such an important truth to our church, a major part of the Three Angels Message that calls God’s people out of Babylon in preparation for the Second Coming, get wrongly interpreted; a message which is essential to understand in order to carry out our ministerial calling? How does one make such an error? Obviously, one may not seriously search, or may look to the teachings in the fallen churches. Perhaps this was done, but there is evidence that there was more, something extremely dangerous; a course that when followed may lead ones steps down a most dangerous path, a path the Bible likens and compares to the practicing of witchcraft, that of rebellion. The Spirit of Prophecy explains the process – beginning by refusing to heed the warnings of inspiration that God has given, and then choosing to sit at the feet of false teachers. Here is what takes place and, from all observations, what might have occurred. According to EGW:
“Just as long as men consent to listen to these sophistries, a subtle influence will weave the fine threads of these seductive theories into their minds, and men who should turn away from the first sound of such teaching will learn to love it. .” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, P. 163).
When we consent to listen for reasons we have been warned not to listen (obtaining new direction and light), we are permitting ourselves to fall under the power of a “branch of hypnotism.” This is the danger in thinking we can separate the truth from the error in the writings of those in the fallen churches. We cannot because we must violate the counsel above, which says not to, placing us under the power of fallen angels. It has to do with choice.
Oh, we pray for you folks who seem to resist seeking for the light in the special messages given to the Remnant Church that you might return home. What is it that has bewitched you? I am not only referring to the leaders of The One Project, but to all of the leaders of the sixty or so SDA organizations who are actively supporting the movement; leaders in our educational system, our conferences, unions and divisions, and even some in the General Conference and at the Review.
Our prayer is that you will see how your reliance on these teachers of error has allowed your thinking to be under attack and altered, and that if not turned away from, could eventually result in separating from God’s people; a people who have been blessed with the Spirit of Prophecy – the Testimony of Jesus. Sincerely, we plead with you to consider why the writings of EGW are not influencing your decisions. Why are the very different teachings from theologians representing the Emerging Church influencing you; a church brought forth with Roman Catholic theology, with the ultimate purpose of bringing the world under its control?
You have seen in this paper, SDA teachings that have been altered and changed, such as the meaning of the biblical Babylon. In this article, we will look at another error in the interpretation of the Laodicean Message from Revelation Chapter 3. For those of us who understand the Three Angels Message, we’re looking at apostasy. Why place the teachings of non-SDA theologians, that are contrary to our beliefs and extremely dangerous, above what we as SDA’s believe is present truth? Please, be true to your own selves as you ponder the answer to these questions. We are brothers and sisters and need to seek the power of prayer to help each other and to turn from Emergent theologians like Moltmann; to turn from relying on fables, and teachings that mix truth and error.
Notice we read, “Men who should turn away from the first sound of such teaching will learn to love it.” This change of heart reveals a conflict between the powers of good and evil. For those who choose to remain and listen to teachers who are known to teach error, and from whom we have been warned in the Spirit of Prophecy not to seek light from, and who teach a mixture of truth and error, evil angels have gained the right to “weave their thoughts,” together with theirs. Since they decided with their own will, they succumb to a power and influence that inspiration calls “a branch of hypnotism.” Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, they do not recognize that this is a form of hypnotism, but because they chose not to “heed the warnings,” fall under satanic deception. They may become excited believing they are actually in touch with divinity, receiving light and new ideas from God, when the truth is that they are being deceived, and their sensibilities have been deadened. Oh, the danger of trifling with the powers of spiritualism, especially after having been warned and known the truth. God have mercy.
“As loyal subjects we must refuse even to listen to these sophistries. Their influence is something like a deadly viper, poisoning the minds of all who listen. It is a branch of hypnotism, deadening the sensibilities of the soul” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, P. 163).
This may seem harsh, but in many ways, over and over again, the Lord has warned us of these things, promising us that if He has any new light, He will give it to us without our having to go to those who are in “darkness and error.” God is protecting His chosen people, knowing it is Satan’s supreme desire to bring these deceptions into His church. The results of ignoring His counsel, though seemingly severe, are justifiable, and are appropriate when weighed against the abundant warnings to flee from such teachings. God has even given us the information needed to identify those who are in “darkness and error.” We who rely on the Spirit of Prophecy for guidance can easily see the danger of practicing spiritual formation, and why these leaders in God’s church--who all have the very same counsel and have fallen into this trap--begs investigation. All the advocates of spiritual formation recommended by Dr. Bryan, practice contemplative spirituality, a form of ancient mysticism, including those he claims have been the most helpful to his spiritual life. Every one of them belong to the fallen denominations we believe are Babylon and are all in “darkness and error.” Yet Dr. Bryan says they are his “favorites” and have been most helpful to his spiritual life.
The Spirit of Prophecy is clear:
“If God has any new light to communicate, He will let His chosen and beloved understand it, without their going to have their minds enlightened by hearing those who are in darkness and error” (Early Writings, P. 124).
If led by the Lord, and when done for research and other educational purposes, reading mixtures of truth and error from authors outside of God’s church can be an acceptable and safe practice, but not if it is done to seek “new light;” new teachings to apply to our personal spiritual life or that alters the mission of our church. The Three Angels Messages are set in stone, and are to be protected and followed, guiding the church members in both the spiritual life and the church’s mission. The Emerging Church theologians; those who Dr. Bryan relies on for spiritual guidance, most likely have never even heard of the Three Angels Message. Why? Because they are members of the churches of Babylon. Yet Dr. Bryan and the other co-founders of this movement are happy to reject or ignore the Spirit of Prophecy warnings, and accept the teachings of those who are in “darkness and error,” like Emergent theologians. This has become a regular practice in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with the belief we are able to discern that which is true and helpful from the error that also exists. Please read carefully – IT IS NOT TRUE THAT WE HAVE THIS ABILITY.
Angels that protect our understanding must leave our side when we choose to violate the counsel to not even “listen to these sophistries.” In The One Project meetings held all over the world, there is little if ever any mention of the Three Angels Message, yet the teachings of mystics (like Dr. Leonard Sweet) are mentioned. His books are distributed to the youth at their meetings; books which contain the poison of truth and error. Our doctrine, meant to keep us separated from the fallen churches of Babylon, is minimalized because the goal of the Emerging Church is the uniting of all churches under the banner of Roman Catholicism. Is this what we want as a mission? I pray you are beginning to see the danger.
The founders of The One Project have been sitting at the feet of false teachers for years; teachers, pastors and professors from George Fox University. This school is teaching a mixture of truth and error and is a part of what we, as SDA’s, have considered Babylon since its formation. For whatever reason, Dr. Bryan and his friends have come to the decision that those dangerous teachers are not the ones we need to worry about, but that the teachings of the SDA church are the problem. Even though these teachers are described as being in “darkness and error” in the Spirit of Prophecy, he [Alex Bryan] seems to feel that our church needs to follow the counsel of the contemplatives that he recommends if it is to survive as a church. This is the primary danger of this rapidly growing movement within the Adventist Church.
In Memory of Rick Howard