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10 Reasons Why “Biblical Wing” Christians Should Not Adopt Frank Viola

April 24, 2012

This is what I believe Viola left off of his recent post on the Converging Zone called “20 Reasons Why the Christian Right & Left Won’t Adopt Me”

This leader from the Organic Church Movement would have us believe there are only two groups, right and left wing Christians… I’m going to add a couple more! A third group I will count myself, “Biblical Wing” Christians who hold to what the Bible teaches – the Five Solas.

Next, there is a fourth group I will count Viola in the “Bible+ Wing” that brings us a plethora of teachings from outside of scriptures. Here are just 10 reasons Biblical Wing Christians should not adopt Frank Viola: (More documentation with links giving evidence of what I share follows this short list)

1. He is anti-organized Church at least as a majority know churches, labeling them as the “IC” (Institutional Churches) – carrying a negative connotation. While Viola may not say those exact words his followers certainly do. They are essentially telling us we’ve doing Church wrong for some 1900 years with their books! He promotes cell type churches but not ones that lead to establishing an organized Church (more below)


2. Common knowledge he preaches open participatory services and in his books “Reimagining Church” – so who is running their churches? They all do!
(more below)

3. Common knowledge he preaches women preachers/teachers of men ok (more below)

4. His open use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Christian saint of sorts. Bonhoeffer who is known for his definition of Christ as, “The man for others.” Along with a host of eclectic postmodern type philosophy – Viola has an entire series on his blog extolling Bonhoeffer (more below)

5. Not the least promotion and use of CSM – Contemplative Spirituality and Mysticism and more. (more below) One example from Viola’s book Revise Us Again,

“People often use very different vocabulary to express the exact same thing … Others use “divine encounter.” … Still others say “contemplating,” “centering,” “abiding,” or “partaking.” Others describe it as “meditating.” By and large, it’s semantics. I’ve observed this phenomenon all my Christian life. People express the same experiences differently. (page 72).

6. Believes in the use of extra-Biblical dreams and visions for direct revelations from God – along with his buddy Wolfgang Simson who preaches dreams and visions are saving the Muslimsalso ties to what Viola quotes of Chrislam Miroslav Volf that we are heading towards something bigger than the Church itself! (more below)

7. His open praise of heretical book The Shack (more below)

8. Bizarre teachings of the Garden of Eden – (more below)

9. Teaches what sounds exactly like Dominionist Theology that we are to prepare the Earth for Christ’s return (more below)

10. The teaching of us being God’s Wife… and Jesus the lonely bachelor. (Excerpt below)

One addendum to what Frank throws out there with his article in his right wing list that deserves a closer look compared with one of his books where he said:

#3. I don’t believe Scripture answers every question posed to it. And there are many questions, including theological ones, which are shrouded in mystery. (Read more below)

Excerpts with more detailed articles linked:

1. Anti-Church even local calling us IC Institutional Churches telling us we’ve essentially been doing Church wrong for some 1900 years! Promotion of cell type churches but not ones that lead to establishing an organized Church

Frank Viola said in Rethinking The Wineskin (1998) and later revised in Reimagining Church quoted here:

“To borrow a term from scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn, we need a “paradigm shift” regarding the church before we can properly rebuild it. That is, we need a new worldview regarding the meaning of the body of Christ. A new model for understanding the ekklesia. A new framework for thinking about the church. Of course, the “new paradigm” that I’m speaking of is not new at all. It’s the paradigm that undergirds the entire New Testament.”(Reimagining Church p272, 2008) Emphasis bold and underlined mine.

Let’s see who has their paradigm right, I believe Viola said what he is doing accurately the first time and is presenting another way to bridge the chasm without a Biblical foundation. I will let the evidence speak for itself throughout the series to address this foundational issue.

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2. Common knowledge he preaches open participatory services and in his books “Reimagining Church” – so who is running it

“A large number of house churches are organized around the principle of being opposed to pastoral authority. The rejection of pastoral authority runs the gamut from Frank Viola’s denunciation of every type of pastor/elder to Steve Atkerson’s allowance for a teaching pastor but not a ruling pastor to Wolfgang Simson’s non-authoritative “elder” that is under the direction of apostles and prophets.” Dr. David Cloud, The House Church Movement

“Although all house churches are different, and they decide individually how they want to do things, in general there are no ‘pastors.’ At least there doesn’t need to be. We believe that the Holy Spirit can use any believer to teach or encourage the group. In a house church, everyone is expected to participate and be looking for ways to use the gifts the Holy Spirit provides (see 1 Cor. 14:26). Certainly there is usually a facilitator of the group (although it doesn’t need to be the same person that facilitates from meeting to meeting). We believe that even a new believer could start a church in their home without feeling like they need a trained professional to come and lead it, or needing money to support such a person. We find that the lack of a specified pastor encourages every person in the group to look for answers by searching the Scriptures and looking to the Holy Spirit, rather than depending on the pastor to interpret” (“Does a House Church Need a Leader or Pastor?” HousetoHouse.com).

Consider Viola’s description of one of his “organic church” services:

“A Christian sister began the meeting by starting a song. And everyone sang with her … a sister stood up and began sharing. … two other sisters interrupted her and shared insights out of their own experience … a brother stood up to speak … He spoke for several minutes, and then a sister stood up and began adding to what he had shared. … no one was leading this gathering” (Reimagining Church, pp. 69, 70).

Viola is wrong in claiming that no one was leading this gathering. In fact, the gathering was obviously being led by the most forward, outspoken women!

And Viola is hypocritical in his claim that a church must allow anyone to speak out. As we will see, he hates dispensational theology and separatism, and if a dispensational fundamentalist were to attend one of the organic churches that is under his “apostleship” and try to speak out on the imminency of Christ’s return and the necessity to win souls before it is too late and to urge the people to separate from every form of end-time apostasy, such an individual would soon be shut down! (Online source Dr. David Cloud, Frank Viola and the Organic Church)

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3. Common knowledge he preaches women preachers/teachers of men ok –
just addressed that succinctly here

Viola frequently quotes CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) Kevin Giles and others with their argument used to show the God Head itself does not have a chain-of-command that it has no hierarchy is used not only to show there is no subordination. This thinking doesn’t stop here the same thinking is used to redefine the role of women leaders, as pastor in the church by Giles.

For this reason, historic orthodoxy rejects the eternal subordination of the Son of God. It instead accepts the temporal subordination of the Son in His incarnation.11 Christ’s subordination to the Father was temporal, voluntary, and limited to the time of His incarnation (Phil. 2:4-11). Gilbert Belzikian [Of Willow Creek more linked here] explains,

 

It is impossible within the confines of orthodoxy to derive a model for an order of hierarchy among humans from the ontological structure of the Trinity, since all three persons are equal in essence. Moreover, because Christ’s functional subjection is not an eternal condition but a task-driven, temporary phase of ministry, it is presented in Scripture as a model of servant hood and mutual submission for all believers (Phil 2:5-11). 12

However the Bible says in those verses, Philippians 2:5-11 says this, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Emphasis on the last verse, “…to the glory of God the Father” shows our Lord in submission, subordinate to God the Father it is all for His Glory. Viola, Giles and Belzikian misuse scripture in an attempt to show something that simply is not there redefining subordination, and hierarchy ignoring what it means to be a bond-servant who willingly gives Himself. While Christ is most certainly co-equal in the Godhead, the truth that Christ is also voluntarily subordinate to the Father simultaneously throughout eternity is not some “task-driven, temporary phase of ministry” because all is to the glory of God the Father. Now watch where this thinking leads and another name included to prop it up by Viola:

Kevin Giles adds, “Historic orthodoxy has never accepted hierarchical ordering in the Trinity.”13 To paraphrase the Athanasian Creed, the Son is only inferior to the Father in relation to His manhood; He is equal with the Father in relation to the Godhead.'” Scripture confirms this in many places. One example is when the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus “learned obedience”-not as the Eternal Son, but in His incarnate state (Heb.5:8).

But God says in the Bible, Hebrews 5:5-10 in context:

5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

John 6:38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 15:10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

Hebrews 10:8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and [offering] for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure [therein]; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

Somehow Giles takes a leap in spite of a list of Bible verses contradicting him and used by Viola to say:

Therefore, the New Testament never supports a hierarchical structure or chain-of-command relationship in the Godhead. The Trinity is a communion of coequal persons (Matt. 28:18; John 5:18; 10:30; 14:9; Phil. 2:6). And the fellowship of the Godhead is egalitarian and nonhierarchical.

Again, Kevin Giles isolates the point, saying, “When a doctrine of the church builds on trinitarian thinking, there is no room for hierarchical ordering.” Miroslav Volf insightfully adds, “A hierarchical notion of the Trinity ends up underwriting an authoritarian practice in the church.”

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4. His open use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Christian saint of sorts – has an entire series on his blog lifting up Bonhoeffer who Dr. Francis Schaeffer points out,

“…They are atheists in the classical sense of that word; and they are Christians only in the sense that they have adopted for themselves Bonhoeffer’s definition of Christ, “The man for others.”They really differ little from today’s optimistic humanists. Schaeffer, F. A. (1996). The complete works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian worldview. Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books.

More on Dietrich Bonhoeffer?! The 1996 article on Biblical Discernment Ministries ties Bonhoeffer to the whole of the “God is Dead” theology of the 60s with Bishop A.T. Robinson and more:


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a neo-orthodox German theologian, pastor, preacher, radio broadcaster, and prolific writer in the 1930s and early-1940s, during the rise, rule, and downfall of Adolph Hitler. He was greatly fascinated with neo-orthodox thought, theology, and terminology, and was greatly influenced by the major theologian of neo-orthodoxy, Karl Barth (1886-1968). Bonhoeffer’s writings are credited with helping to father the “Death of God” theology which was popularized by the Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson in the decade of the 1960s. Bonhoeffer was in reality a practical atheist and a religious humanist who denied virtually every cardinal doctrine of the historic Christian faith (Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge, New York: Macmillan Co., 1972, pp. 9-12).

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5. Not the least promotion and use of
CSM – Contemplative Spirituality and Mysticism and more:


In his latest book April 2011, Revise Us Again, Viola again demonstrates his bent toward contemplative mysticism and at the same time, ignorance of the scriptures he claims to love: (emphasis in bold mine) 

People often use very different vocabulary to express the exact same thing. For instance, Watchman Nee used a unique phrase when he referred to his fellowship with the Lord. He called it “touching the Lord.” Others use the phrase “sweet communion.” Others use “divine encounter.” Others use less phenomenological phrases. To describe fixing one’s heart upon the Lord, some people use the phrase “turning to the Lord.” Others use the word “gazing.” Others say “beholding” or “looking into the face of God.” Still others say “contemplating,” “centering,” “abiding,” or “partaking.” Others describe it as “meditating.” By and large, it’s semantics. I’ve observed this phenomenon all my Christian life. People express the same experiences differently. (page 72).

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6. Believes in the use of extra-Biblical dreams and visions for direct revelations from God – along with his buddy Wolfgang Simson who preaches dreams and visions are saving the Muslims also ties to what Viola quotes of Chrislam Miroslav Volf that we are heading towards something bigger than the Church itself!

“As Miroslav Volf says, “The church lives from something and toward something that is greater than the church itself.” That something is God and His eternal purpose.” (page 147 Reimagining Church)

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7. His open praise of heretical book The Shack

Frank Viola said, “All told: I will shamelessly throw my hat in the ring with those who are giving unqualified praise for The Shack. I believe that this book will make history in more ways than one. And as I’ve told Paul myself, I can’t wait until it trumps “The Purpose Driven Life.” At the present rate the book is selling, it won’t be too long for that to happen. Thank you, Paul Young, for writing this monumental work. The Kingdom of God is better off for it. ” Source was now dead link: http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/short-book-review-of-the-shack-by-william-p-young/

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8. Bizarre teachings of the Garden of Eden – Covered here

The Jesus Manifesto attempts to build a case by stating those who CHOOSE to intellectually discern good from evil and try to do good is the same as following the serpent’s lie that we are not living by the life of God and must go to the tree of life as they define it:

 “1. The choice to intellectually know good from evil and to try to do good = the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [or] 2. Living by the life of God, which is goodness itself = the tree of life” Page 130.

This is preceded by a rather odd remark, “You see, “good” is a form of life. And only God is good.” Where will you read in scripture, “good is a form of life?” – Still looking into the source of that idea perhaps Aristotle but certainly not from God’s word!

 You may want to stop and argue that only the spiritual man/woman can understand spiritual things of God, I am not debating that point (1 Co 2:10-16). The Jesus Manifesto juxtaposes the scriptures saying, “Mark it down: the knowledge of good is the accepted counterfeit to living by life (p130). The next line states:  

  “The Christian religion18 is built on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”The footnote #18 in the back of The Jesus Manifesto defines the word religion in this statement as, “We are not defining “religion” the way the apostle James did in James 1. There the word religion means “worship.” We are instead using the word to mean a system of human thought, belief, and practice that typically involves a higher power.” They state at this level we can compare the Christian religion to other religions of the world and how we may believe we have God under control through our knowledge of religion.  

The problem with that thinking is anyone presenting a doctrinal teaching does not fit The Jesus Manifesto definition, James 1:27 states, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
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9. Teaches what sounds exactly like Dominionist Theology – That we are to prepare the Earth for Christ’s return more documented here


Connect The Jesus Manifesto together with the teachings of the Local Church Movement! The Jesus Manifesto states, “The earth awaits a body of Christians in every city who will receive Jesus utterly and completely. A body who will esteem Him above everything else, giving Him His rightful place of supremacy” (pages 158-159).
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10. The teaching of us being God’s Wife…
I will let the documentation speak for itself:

Viola stated this past September 4th 2011, at the Momentum National House Church conference in his message on “Epic Jesus,” when Frank Viola states in this fuller quote,

“A matchless throng that no man can number from every tribe, every race, every kindred every tongue and God does something incredible – the throng turns into a whirlwind of glorious light, as glorious as the face of God, and it begins to form, and out of it, out of this whirlwind steps the most glorious woman, beyond the imagination of mortals, the bride makes her entrance, the mystery of the ages the new Eve, and gold is poured into gold and light into light, and the bride of the Lamb becomes the wife of God and the two shall become one. For behold I show you a mystery the woman was taken out of the man and brought to the man and the two become one flesh but I’m not speaking of Adam and Eve, I’m speaking of Christ and the Church.“ (Online Source)

This is not a onetime statement by Viola, there is a whole theology wrapped around this! In his 2009 book From Eternity to Here on page 126 he says similarly, (emphasis in bold mine)

“The bride has been making herself ready for this grand moment (Rev. 19:7-9). Heaven’s Bridegroom takes His spotless bride into the wedding chamber, behind the veil, and purity is poured into purity, light flows into light, and the Lord Jesus Christ and His beloved bride become one. And she is no longer a bride. She is now the wife of God. And God the Son is no longer a bachelor.

So how did we get from ‘there to here should be the question! A few more quotes from earlier ‘Violology’(as I now coin it) he develops a whole line of theological thought of his own in From Eternity to Here to show the depth of what is being said:

“No one else existed. Nothing else existed. Within the bosom of God the Father was God the Son. And they were unified. The Spirit was also present, sharing in the oneness of both Father and Son. Pulsating within the center of the Godhead was the very essence of deity, a passionate love (John 17:24; 1 John 4:16). All things pour forth from God the Father. He is the source of everything. This includes the passion of divine love. Augustine once said, “If God is love, then there must be in Him a Lover, a Beloved, and a Spirit of love; for no love is conceivable without a Lover and a Beloved” (From Eternity to Here on page 38).

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One addendum to what Frank throws out there with his article in his right wing list that deserves a closer look compared with one of his books where he says:


#3. I don’t believe Scripture answers every question posed to it. And there are many questions, including theological ones, which are shrouded in mystery.

This is a spin on his and Len Sweet’s book The Jesus Manifesto where I reviewed this statement another way:

The Jesus Manifesto page 131, “The Christian religion teaches that the Bible answers virtually every question that’s brought to the sacred text. The problem with this line of thought is that the true God cannot fit into anyone’s box.”

Here The Jesus Manifesto breaks away from scripture and begins to reveal what they are saying. Christians would agree the Bible is God’s Word but these men teach the Bible PLUS new revelations, support liberal theology, the use of psychology and a heavy leaning on mystical teachings of the Emergent Church. The Jesus Manifesto is really just old Modernistic poison in a new sugar coat! J. Gresham Machen, in What is Faith? states, “The retrograde, anti-intellectual (sic) movement, called Modernism, a movement which really degrades the intellect by excluding it from the sphere of religion, will be overcome, and thinking will again come to its rights” (p. 18). The Bible is God’s box?! – If the Bible is a box not even the visible contents of the known universe begin to reveal all is contained therein!

When Adam and Eve were in the garden, they did not know sin; they lived in pure innocence with a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Later the Devil as a serpent deceived them to commit sin. Here is the crux of the matter! Adam and Eve’s decision to sin changed everyone giving us the sin nature that would require a Saviour, God’s Son who came and died for all who would believe. Satan’s lie to Eve was that she is going to be like God; the experiential knowledge from eating of the tree is not what defines God.

The tree was a fork in the road but does not equate to the Bible as painted by The Jesus Manifesto. The Bible is a huge part of the Christian’s tree of life, it is God’s Word, pure, and holy. If we cannot trust and rely on it as a pattern (blueprint) for sound Christian living we do not have Christianity, only some sort of facsimile of it. If you choose to ignore the Bible or treat it with contempt as if it is not relevant for today, or you choose to follow The Jesus Manifesto which says, “…It should be read in the light of new information and fresh discoveries…” – this is Emergent/Emerging Church doctrine not Biblical doctrine. God is the One who said He never changes and just how do I know that? I know that from the Bible, God’s Word – not the heaps of books being pushed at us from the Emerging, Emergent and Organic crowd. Hebrews 13:8-9 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” The Bible speaks plenty to such false teachings and we should heed the warning:

 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or [if] ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with [him].”

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Need more? The Organic Church? Based on God’s Word or Truth from the Dung Heap?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2012 4:16 am

    Ive just read this overview of Frank Viola’s writing. FV has stated his case but your rebuttal doesnt have any scriptural weight. i.e. Just because your church has pastors doesnt make it biblical. Im not sure FV has represented himself wisely but this is arrogance, anger and opinion all focussed on FV. Dung heap? He can show this church practice from scripture. can you show yours?

    • January 3, 2013 6:39 am

      Seriously? How many scriptures in support of what the Bible teaches do you need? We have shown repeatedly FV is off base in many ways including his ties with Len Sweet and other goofy teachers who pervert scriptures to their own liking. They are redefining Christianity not refining the Word once delivered to us.

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