We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sacred Marriage

Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas, was passed to me by a friend, and, coincidentally, another friend told me about the book and raved about it.  So I figured I’d better read it!

Overall, the book was very good, but there are some caveats that must be made before I can recommend it.

First, the author makes too many speculations as to what God thinks and why God does things, and often does this dogmatically.  For example, he asserts that God designed marriage to make us more holy, and that is the premise of the book.  Nowhere in Scripture does it even intimate that God designed marriage for such a reason.  Can it be an outcome of marriage?  Of course.  But nothing in Scripture says that was the reason for design.  

One of those “myeh” moments came when I read where Thomas tells about the last scene in the original Star Wars movie, where Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia are honored for their part in winning the war; he says this “still tears me up inside,” and that “it shadows a heavenly truth I yearn for.”  And what is this “truth”? That we are “to turn from earthly ambition and to shun earthly rewards.”  I’m sorry, but I definitely cannot see such a “shadow” in that scene.

Like so many teachers, as well as lay persons, Thomas abuses Matthew 18:20, in which Jesus said, “where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”   Thomas says,  “The presence of God comes to us as two beings are joined.  God ‘dwells’ in the midst of this coming together.  It’s a beautiful picture.  There is a long tradition of seeking God in solitude, but clearly there is also biblical warrant to seek God in relationship and community.  Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew...”   Then he emphasizes “where two or three come together in my name....”  This passage is about church discipline and has nothing to do with the subject Thomas is forcing into it.

The most egregious problem is his citations from numerous authors who are mystics or false teachers.  There are so many mystics used that I can only conclude that Thomas must be a mystic himself!  After all, he admits that his wife reads Guideposts, which, if you are unfamiliar, was founded by false teacher Norman Vincent Peale.  But Thomas cites a story from it!

Okay, as for authors Thomas cites to buttress his teachings:

Let’s start with Dan Allender.  His book, “The Wounded Heart,” is soundly refuted for its pop-psychology in Ed Bulkley’s book, “Only God Can Heal the Wounded Heart.”  Allender syncretizes Christianity with secular psychology - a dangerous mix.  However, Gary Thomas apparently has no problem with such syncretization, because there were so many citations from the book, Intimate Allies, by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman that I felt I should just read that book and get it over with!  

Next, there is Phillip Yancey, who also gets a number of citations.  I’ve previously exposed Yancey as being New Age, a proponent of pop-psychology, ecumenical, defender of homosexuality, approving of the Emergent movement - and he rejects attempts at correction by others.

Other questionable teachers cited include:

Bill McCartney of Promise Keepers.  Thomas speaks favorably about this organization, which is also ecumenical and has some downright aberrant teachings.

Friedrich Nietzche -  Need I say more?

Donald Harvey - a counselor who syncretizes the Bible with secular psychology.

Francois Fenelon - Roman Catholic mystic, admirer of Madam Guyon (who he calls “one of the great Christian mystics of all time”).

Bernard of Clairvaux  - Roman Catholic mystic.

Teresa of Avila - Roman Catholic mystic.

St. John Climacus - Roman Catholic ascetic, mystic.

Henri Nouwen - another mystic/contemplative teacher, Catholic priest.

Dick Westly - Roman Catholic philosopher; calls real “love-making” the “height of asceticism.”

Mary Ann McPherson Oliver - “spirituality today”

Brother Lawrence - Roman Catholic mystic.

Thomas Hart; I’ve never heard of him, but the citation by Thomas has Hart saying, “our fascination with sex is closely related to our fascination with God.”  My immediate thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding!”  Of all the sex perverts out there pushing every type of sexual aberration and immorality, loading our culture with pornography, same-sex fake marriage, etc, I sincerely doubt many are “fascinated” with God!

Other authors cited had names unfamiliar to me, and they may or may not be problematic.

Lastly, I think he gives too much personal information about him and his wife and their marriage, and it made me feel like a voyeur at times.

As I said at the beginning, the book was really good as far as its overall teachings, but I think there are some real “bumps in the road” which need to be addressed before passing it on to an immature believer.


Marshal Art said...

I don't know, Glenn. Sounds like you're not recommending the book at all. I've heard porn stars refer to sex as a spiritual thing, so I see a single mention of such a thing as a big enough red flag, if it is stated in seriousness. I can't think of too many things that are less spiritual than the manifestation of this carnal desire. Some might refer to the encouragement to do all things for the glory of God, but sex seems to push the notion just a bit.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Marshall,

Well, I can recommend the book with the caveats given - and only to a mature believer. I think there is a whole lot of good in the book, but the author's fascination with mystical authors, Roman Catholics, and psychobabblers taints the book in my opinion.

I think there is indeed a spiritual dimension to sexual relations in that it ties the two people together in a spiritual way.

ali said...

Interesting, that oft times one feels the Bible needs to be "explained" instead of allowing scripture to interpret scripture and allowing His Word to speak for Itself. Think I will continue my reading in 1 Corinthians and Jeremiah.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I don't want anyone to misunderstand what I'm saying here. The book has some excellent teachings about marriage in general, which makes it worthwhile in spite of my objections.

The whole time I was reading it I had in mind a particular man who would benefit from reading it - except he has refused marital counseling of any kind.