Westhoughton Evangelical Church
Some years ago the compromising Church of England held an event at Manchester Cathedral. This event was called Spirit of Life. However, this staged day was a time of mixing new age paganism with the pure Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Below we include our leaflet that was given out to those going in, and a review of the day's protest.
OUR LEAFLET GIVEN OUT ON THE DAY
"This is the first ever Spirit of Life festival to be held at Manchester’s Cathedral. What the organizers of this event are hoping to offer you is ‘a clear Christian alternative to the usual offer at Mind, Body Spirit events…’. Contrary to what many atheists would have us believe we are living in days of spiritual thirst where many are in fact seeking answers to many of life’s perplexing problems-Where did we come from? Why is the world the way it is? Is there life after death? Is there a God? Can He be known? And many more thought provoking questions could be added.
For many seeking answers to the above it is a bit of journey and puzzle in and of itself. Where does one even begin to look? For some, a general look into religion itself seems a good place to start. For others, they have settled on to a particular faith and become convinced of its truth. Whether you are a seeker after truth, or one who believes they have found such, or merely one who is curious about what is taking place today, we would encourage you to read on.
Christianity, as revealed in the Bible, makes a number of astonishing claims for itself. Whether we believe them or not is a matter of personal belief. Even so, the claims it does make cannot or should not be ignored, especially by those claiming to be adherents and followers of that faith.
One of the major beliefs of Christianity is the claim that Jesus Christ is the Eternal God. Not only such, but that He Himself is the very source of all wisdom and knowledge. In Colossians 1v16-17 we read, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” That being said reminds us that this one man Jesus Christ is the very source and fount of all knowledge and wisdom, that nothing else exists beyond Him or before Him.
Such being the case also reminds us that He Himself, once found and met, satisfies and ends all further pursuits and longings. One then no longer finds themselves searching and looking for spiritual realities, meanings, and fulfilments; as He, the true source and fount of life, has been found.
For the early New Testament Christian that very Jesus Christ was the one true Saviour and nothing else was needed or looked for. However, in the 2nd century the Gospel of Jesus Christ came under attack from a heresy (false teaching) called Gnosticism. The word itself comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning knowledge. At the very heart of this teaching was that Jesus was okay, but something else was needed. He Himself was not, as the Apostle Paul claimed, the one in whom should ’…all fullness dwell’ (Col.1v19). The writings of the Apostle John, and even that of Paul, were written to counter an early form of Gnostic teaching.
It can be said that Gnosticism is best found today in what has come to be known as the New Age . Yet in reality there is nothing new about it at all, as such is merely the reviving of an ancient heresy called Gnosticism. Whilst there is no one exact definition of this teaching it is generally agreed that such consists of ways and means to obtain a higher level of spiritual knowledge (gnosis). One theological dictionary says,
‘it is common to refer to Gnosticism as an early ‘Christian’ heresy that stressed privately revealed knowledge above that which is generally available to everyone through the Scriptures.’
Note such is the attempt at gaining knowledge (that is a knowledge of spiritual truth and meaning) that exists outside of God’s revealed truth discovered in the Bible. Remember that we have already said that for the professed Christian Jesus Christ Himself is all wisdom and knowledge. So, outside of Him there is no such truth or secret knowledge to be gained.
“Christian spirituality holds mysteries for us we never expected. There can be times in our lives when we struggle with familiar or traditional routes to spirituality. We can feel we have experienced all that is out there but still thirst for new challenges and insights to what God holds for us. In these times ‘alternative’ forms of spirituality can fire our imaginations and bring us closer into knowing the infinite God.”The above quote is taken directly from the ‘Spirit of Life’ (s) own website. It is quite open about its New Age connection, even hosting is own page. Note what we have said earlier concerning the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, and its attempt at gaining new insights and mysteries into God.
Does the Bible warn of such attempts made to obtain knowledge, by whatever means that be, outside of God’s Word the Holy Bible? In 1 Timothy 6v20 we read ‘…keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science (gnosis -knowledge) falsely so called.’
Do we need other methods, ways, means, & techniques (other than what the Bible itself provides and sanctions) to give us insight into the mind and will of God? Or is the Bible alone sufficient? Are there hidden, secret mysteries yet to be got concerning the Person of God? Or has God given us all in His Word the Bible? Why not let the Bible speak for itself.
‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable fordoctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction inrighteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works’ (2 Timothy 3v16ff).
Please note the words in bold print. Such remind us that the Bible (Scripture) itself is all sufficient for our knowledge (Greek Gnosis) of God-‘for doctrine’; for our way of growing deeper into spirituality -‘in righteousness’; for how to live & please God in all things and follow His perfect will -‘Furnished unto all good works.’
How then are we to find God, grow deeper in our walk and knowledge of Him, and enter into a deeper experience of the Divine Being? It is not found in alternative forms of spirituality, eastern mysticism or occult practices. It is found by seeking God in His written Word, which says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8v36). ‘Ye shall know concerning the doctrine’ (Jn 7v17). ‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God’ (Ephesians 3v19). ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…’ (1 Timothy 4v1ff).
Do not rely on other means, which have other spirits behind them, to bring you to God or deepen your walk with Him. Rather, read the Bible and grow that way. ‘…desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2v2)
‘For the time will come (like here in Manchester!) when they shall not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables’ (2 Timothy 4v3-4)."
I arrived at the cathedral shortly after 11am, the opening time of the event, to find about 15 or so protesters outside handing out literature warning of the dangers taking place inside. This was pleasant to the eyes to see, especially when it appeared there weren't many more inside! I had come armed myself with my own specially written tract for the day (see 'spirit of life article'). Not surprising the organizers of the event were not happy with our presence and made that known. We were rather passionately encouraged by one usher to step away from the cathedral steps, and not to venture on to the pathway entrance. Another, even more passionate advocate of 'Christianizing' the New Age pagan cult, with a t-shirt displaying 'free hugs' (I never got one!), waxed rather loudly and passionately about something; I can't quite remember what, but I know he weren't singing our praises or welcoming us inside.
For the first time in my life (after more than ten years in pastoral ministry) I wore a 'dog collar.' This was in order to gain more of a hearing and acceptance with those going into the event. It did the job, with people not quite knowing whether I was for or against the event, even causing one women upon my arrival to show me from Scripture why all this was wrong and challenging me. It took quite a few seconds before I could assure her we were on the same side! Another women said, upon handing her one of my leaflets, "I see you have quite some opposition"; to which I just smiled :-). The leaflet was also designed in such a way as to not become evident at first whether it was for or against the event, even causing one of the ushers to stand next to me telling passers by, 'he's not with us.'!
Even so, as the day progressed on there was a softening with one man coming out and offering us some drinks, to which I gladly accepted. I was then asked if I'd like to go inside and view the stalls for myself and be assured that there was nothing un-Christian about what was going on. This was an opportunity not to be missed, especially as I wouldn't have to pay the required £5. I was kindly taken around by an Anglican minister called Kevin. Kevin was a nice fellow and I appreciated the time he took to show me around. He had his own stall with various books on display about some past 'Christian' mystics. He also had a dog next to his stall, which meant we were on the same level straight way! At least in liking dogs, if not much else.
After trying carefully to scan all stalls as I was being shown around, it soon became evident that my own fears, after viewing what would be on offer at the event (through viewing the spirit of life' (s) own website beforehand) were confirmed. What really was on display was nothing more than doing what the church has tragically done in its history before, and that of seeking to 'Christianize' what is in fact pagan and un-Christian. In speaking with one of the actual organizers of the event, whom I spoke with outside afterwards, I was asked if I agreed with the way the Apostle Paul evangelized. To which came a 'yes.' She was of course referring to Paul's encounter with pagan religions on Mars Hill-Acts 17. Her claim was that what she and others were doing was simply no different. Yet a closer look at what Paul, and other encounters spoken of throughout Scripture, reveals an entirely different approach than what was taking place at Manchester's cathedral.
A Fire Breathing Vicar!
The Apostles' approach in seeking to present the Gospel of Christ never endangered the purity of that very Gospel. In fact the Apostles, each to a man, were ever warning of the dangers of mixing that very Gospel with falsehood. A perfect example of such would be Paul's encounter with the Judaizers and his stark warning to the Galatians. (see esp. chap 1 & 2). As we read though of Paul's encounter with pagan religions what do we find? Rather than him taking on board their falsehood he does the very opposite. We first find his heart grieved and pained over what he is seeing (v16). He rebukes their idolatry-'not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device' -v29. Yet rather ironically such was glaringly present for all to see, with its offering experiences of the Divine Creator through these very means-stones, crystals, images, incense, cards, art, and other materials employed for bringing one closer to God. And yet the very organizers of this event are glaringly blind to the irony of it all. It was truly a case of the blind leading the blind.
An example of the above was seen when talking with a stall holder who had stones laid out on the ground. When I enquired as to what it all was she explained that one is meant to pick a stone, hold it in the hand, say a prayer-and then pass the blessing on to others. Where, we may fairly ask, is this in Scripture? Where do we find the Bible giving us instruction to practice such? Get ready for the answer I heard from someone afterward-the white stone in Revelation 2v17. How appalling! What a travesty we find in people misapplying Scripture to justify the practice of even pagan, superstitious, ritualism. The white stone in Revelation has absolutely nothing to do with the superstitious practice just mentioned. It says nothing about taking a stone in one's hand, praying over such, and then passing on the blessing. It is a symbolic representation of one's entrance and acceptance into heaven, taken from one winning in the games and being given a stone that was one's entrance to the ceremony afterwards, and used to illustrate such for the Christian. What made such an encounter doubly sad was that this woman's husband was an ordained Church of England minister-standing next to her. Say no more!
Whilst the above encounter was sad to witness, especially when the sincerity of the practitioners is evident, my next encounter appeared even darker. What else was on display? There was the 'Jesus deck.' This appeared more sinister than the rest. When questioning a lady about such I was assured, in response to my question, that such was not about telling someone's future but merely a way of sharing the Gospel. The way such was done is that a pack of cards, supposedly representing a different part of a Gospel, is laid before the seeker. They are then asked if they are 'drawn' towards any particular card. When a card is pointed out that particular card and what it supposedly represents is then explained to them.
Now, I am not some overly suspicious heresy hunter who sees the devil hiding behind every lamppost. Yet one wonders why it is deemed necessary to imitate an occult practice-such as tarot card readings. Even the sitting at a table facing the enquirer, or seeker, is mimicked after a real tarot card reading. After all, the old saying 'imitation is the best form a flattery' surely comes to mind! What was different though, out of all the people spoken to, was the eyes and appearance of the women spoken to. Without wishing to sound unkind, but if I were to go and have my fortune told, be that by means of tarot cards, crystal ball, or palm readings, she would be exactly what I would expect to encounter, especially the glassy eyed look.
Other things encountered on the day were a tent pitched (I felt as if I had been transported to Glastonbury!) where advertised on the front entrance were things like 'dream interpretation.' Once again all this was a vast departure from Biblical Christianity and an entering into the dark world of New Age, Gnostic, pagan religion. Who can indeed interpret dreams? And how would we even know that such interpretations were accurate and from God? There is simply no way of knowing. Besides, hasn't God given us a full, complete Bible? Such is more than sufficient for a persons needs, even as far as knowing the future goes. If God has not revealed it in His Word then frankly I'm not in the slightest interested. And neither should anybody else be. People's curiosity into such things ought not to be encouraged. After all, this is what attracts many into occult activity to begin with-a curiosity about the unknown! Even the very word 'occult' means 'hidden/unknown.' We are warned by God about meddling into such curiosities.
My final uptake on the whole day? Very saddened to see the departure from the Bible based, Christ centred, Gospel preaching, soul saving message that is clearly given in the Word of God. Also, the total lack of discernment amongst those, and I sincerely believe there were some (not all) of the Lord's true people caught up in all of this. Yet surely we reserve the greatest rebuke, and fear for, the so called 'Bishops' within the Church of England. People like 'Bishop' Nigel McCulloch, the 'Bishop' of Manchester. Where is he in all of this? At the start of our protest I enquired of one of the stewards if he were there, hoping to get a word, but she informed me that she believed he was there at the very start but was no longer. Then again he is obviously, along with most of the Bishops in the Church of England - clueless!