29 January 2013

Seeker-Driven Pastor Brings Polytheism into the Mainstream

Christianity is, by necessity, a monotheistic religion. The God that Christians worship—the one, true God—tells His own that this is so:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut. 6:4)
The idea of polytheism—that there exists in the universe a plurality of gods—has been throughout the ages a concept set forth by pagan religions. In fact, it is because of the pagan, polytheistic beliefs of Israel's Canaanite neighbors that God issues the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4. This is not the only place in Scripture where God affirms His exclusivity:
To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. (Deut. 4:35)
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6)
It is shocking to think, then, that the pagan idea of polytheism would ever begin to creep into mainstream evangelicalism. Yet such a transgression recently was committed by John Mark Comer, pastor of Solid Rock Church in Portland, Oregon.

On 13 January 2013, Comer taught a sermon entitled, "Yahweh Elohim" from the text of Exodus 34:6. A few excerpts from this sermon may be heard below:


As is clear from the clip above, Comer states in no uncertain terms his belief that the pagan gods of the Old Testament were actual deities, albeit lesser ones than the Lord. Later in his sermon, he will reference Western Seminary professor Gerry Breshears, who has co-authored multiple books with Mars Hill megapastor Mark Driscoll. The course description of Breshears' online Spiritual Warfare course subsection, 'Biblical Worldview', reads as follows, though beyond this it is not known how such information is presented by Breshears (please see Breshears' comments below):
A biblical worldview describes reality differently than a worldview based on naturalism or eastern religion. Throughout the Bible, we see a conflict between Yahweh and other gods. (Source)
What should one do with these passages of Scripture referring to other 'gods'? Must they necessarily be actual, god-like entities simply because the text acknowledges that people worshiped them? Or can a man be led astray by false gods of his own design?

In the many verses from Psalms that Comer references at the conclusion of this clip, the astute Christian will see that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is using poetic language to deny the existence of these pagan gods. As Jeremiah 10:1–16 clearly teaches, these false gods exist merely as dead, worthless statues.

Ancient civilizations, without the revelation of the true God, created their own pantheon of gods as a means of explaining various natural phenomena. Often, the god of the sun was the primary god in the pantheon, just as it was in the ancient Egyptian religion:
The central divinity of Egyptian religion is the sun, and from early times the most important sun god is Re. He is believed to sail his boat under the world each night. Every time, during the journey, he has to defeat an evil spirit, Apophis, before he can reappear. At Thebes, which becomes the capital in about 2000 BC, another god, Amen, is of great importance. In about 1500 BC Amen combines with Re to become Amen-Re, who from then on is effectively the state god of Egypt, identified with the pharaoh. (Source)
The Old Testament Scriptures acknowledge that ancient civilizations bowed down to other gods besides Yahweh, and that is why Yahweh calls His people, Israel, to be set apart from such pagan idolatry and to worship Him alone. As will be demonstrated later, the New Testament also affirms that Christians are to be set apart from their pagan neighbors, and that they too are to worship only the one true God. He is, after all, not merely the greatest of many gods, but the only God.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. (Isa. 43:10–11)
At the same time, Christianity acknowledges that there are spiritual powers at work in the universe. While God has His armies of angels, so too do many demonic entities exist. This clearly is evidenced in the ministry of Jesus, as He heals many of demonic possession. Yet, beyond these angels who fell along with Satan (Rev. 12:4), are there also multiple gods and other deities at work in the universe? Pastor Comer would have us think so. He also would have us think that Jesus Christ did not hold to a monotheistic worldview:



Based upon Ephesians 6:12, Comer teaches that there not only are evil spiritual powers at work in the world, but that some of these actually may be considered to be 'lesser gods'. As noted above, the Christian would affirm the existence of Satan and his minions. Further, this passage in Ephesians does seem to confirm some sort of ranking within that evil empire. To refer to such beings as gods, as lesser deities, however, is to promulgate a worldview that simply is not consistent with orthodox Christianity.

Yet it is precisely this monotheistic worldview that Comer seeks to shatter. He does so by claiming, as can be heard in the clip above, that Jesus Himself did not adhere to monotheism. Rather, what Comer seems to describe is a sort of monolatry, or henotheism, which is defined as "the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods."

God's Word, though referring to Satan as 'the god of this world' (2 Cor. 4:4) continually affirms the falseness of pagan gods.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4–8)
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Cor. 8:4–6)
In this last verse, the Apostle Paul affirms that, in spite of the worship of various gods and the existence of many idols in the pagan Corinthian world, these gods nevertheless are false. There is, says Paul, only one true God. All others are inventions of man. Might an evil entity perform a supernatural work in the name of these false gods, so as to lead men astray, convincing them of the false god's existence? Most certainly, but this does not make that entity a god, it only confirms that it is a deceptive spirit, and an enemy of the true God.
It is not that there are no imaginary gods, so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords. Some are outright fakes and some are manifestations of demons, but none are truly gods. The so-called gods have a certain type of reality, but not as deity. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians, [Moody: 1984], 193.)
Jesus Christ affirmed a monotheistic worldview by demonstrating His own deity through His life, death and resurrection.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
He clearly taught His disciples the same truth regarding the exclusivity of God, else they would not have continually taught this in their own writings.
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:6)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Tim. 2:5)
Even the demons, the source behind the deception of every false religion, believe that there is only one God.
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (Jas. 2:19)
Perhaps it is a bit of divine irony that seeker-driven pastor John Mark Comer has arrived at a different conclusion. And while he obtusely claims to still affirm that Jesus Christ is the only means to God the Father, one cannot help but cringe at his lack of condemnation of one of Satan's greatest triumphs, the development of many false religions and the fashioning of a myriad of false gods designed to lead the masses astray.

This teaching is now present in a seeker-driven, evangelical church. How long might it be before this henotheistic, polytheistic worldview begins to permeate the mainstream? Is the body of Christ prepared to accept polytheism? If not, then the Christian best open his Bible and pray for wisdom, because the Great Deceiver is busy.

*Listen to apologist Chris Rosebrough critique this sermon:



Further Reading
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
The World's Propitiation
As Interest in Spiritual Directors Grows, Christians Must Be Wary and Armed with Truth