Alliance Life Magazine: Nyack Student Vents by Virgin Mary Statue
In the CMA's March-April 2015 Alliance Life article "No More Faking It" Dr. Ron Walborn relates the story of one of his "fundamentalist" Nyack students who, on a spiritual formation retreat at a Catholic monastery, stood by a Virgin Mary statue while using vulgar language as he "processed" his anger. Perhaps you are already gasping, "What! Why would a Christian college student be venting beside a Virgin Mary statue?"
Well, according to Dean Walborn this "fundamentalist" young man was a casualty of a "bounded-set" background that filled him with "bounded-set shame" which after being exposed during a Walborn lecture finally sets him free to let it all out.
Now, exactly what is a "bounded-set" and why should someone have "bounded-set" guilt? According to Walborn this theory was so named by anthropologist and missiologist Dr. Paul Hiebert. Bounded-set -- according to Walborn and missional emergents such as Brian McLaren and Phyllis Tickle-- is how many do church. Bounded-set proponents, they contend, are rigid, rules-oriented religious souls who can just be the meanest, legalistic elder-brother-like people imaginable.
Because these rules so weary "bounded-set" youth, suggests Walborn, they eventually feel guilty that they can't live up to these rigid standards as practiced by their churches so that they then rebel, and become "prodigal people." Whereas, postulates Walborn, if they'd just follow a more relational, relaxed, less restrictive "centered-set" agenda which focuses on Jesus they'd be much less likely to become guilt-ridden prodigals.
Walborn in His Own Words:
Walborn says, "in bounded-set culture image is everything ... But when performance fails, guilt and rebellion follow. At Nyack college we encounter countless students who are stressed because they can't keep up with the bounded-set treadmill. It's not Jesus they are rejecting but bounded-set weariness..."
Now the worst of the worst of these "bounded-set" youth, writes Walborn, are those that actually are able to keep all the rules, and don't rebel but are caught in this tedious, tiresome treadmill wrapped up in their "bounded-set" shame. To get out of this religious rat race Walborn recommends shedding one's inhibitions, and openly admitting sin while drawing near to the Lord at one's own pace.
More Walborn Words:
Walborn says, "However, if performance works, an elder brother is born. The Christian students I find the most difficult to reach are those for whom the bounded set is working."
Using scripture as he expounds on the "bounded-set" dilemma, Walborn seems to set up his students (Might I say "intimidates"?) to break down, and process their pent-up anger (no mention of sin) so as to rid themselves of any of those bad "bounded-set" tendencies and to be transformed by a "centered- set" agenda so as to become loving, passionate Jesus followers.
Centered Set Emergents:
All this is Biblical, right? No! This is but a page out of the emergent play book which adapts the Paul Hiebert theory --with Walborn's own insertions-- that is followed by such emergents as Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and Tony Jones. As you read Walborn's version of Hiebert's theory it's full of not so subtle put-downs for the "bounded-set" as: rigid, unaccepting, rule keepers, veiled, fakers, behavior oriented, performance driven, stressed out, weary, shamed, guilt filled, rebellious, elder- brother like, religious, mean spirited, angry, competitive, self-righteous, and legalistic. While all is not quite "tidy" for the "centered-set" Walborn uses such terms as relational, fluid, accepting, transformative, unveiled, real, truth seekers, focused, helpful, fellow travelers, passionate, caring, and of course loving. Painting people who have kept the faith, and are sincere followers of our Lord Jesus Christ with those adjectives seems to be exactly what the emergent church has done tearing apart the simple truth of the gospel for a watered down, social justice, we need something new "gospel." And I would ask you--who are the real rebels?
Now, Wikipedia's informative article "Emerging Church" subsection "Centered Set" gives us even more clarity. It reads, "Movement leaders such as Rob Bell (now into the New Age) appropriates set theory as a means of understanding a basic change in the way a Christian thinks about itself as a group. ... A bounded set would describe a group with clear 'in' and 'out' definitions of membership. ... The centered set does not limit membership to preconceived boundaries. Instead a centered set is conditioned on a centered point. Membership is contingent on those who are moving toward that point. ... As a centered set Christian membership would be dependent on moving toward the central
point of Jesus. Christians are then defined by their focus and movement toward Christ rather than a limited set of shared beliefs and values." Conversely, Jesus stated it this way, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father but by me." (John 14:6)
The Paul Heibert Theory Background:
If you'd like to read the actual Paul Heibert theory, its history, and its meaning as given by Michael L. Yoder, Michael H. Lee, Jonathan Ro, and Robert J. Priest peruse: "Understanding Christian Identity in Terms of Bounded and Centered Set Theory in the Writings of Paul G. Hiebert." On page 184, it says, "Perhaps, the arena where Heibert's ideas on set theory have had the widest influence is in the missional and emergent/emerging church movement. (McLaren ... ; Frost and Hirsh...; Robinson ...; Jones ...; Tickle ...; ...)" Reader, it is interesting to note that Heibert was a Mennonite missionary who taught alongside of C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber at Fuller. It can also be noted that John Wimber used Heibert's set theory in his Vineyard Churches. Most importantly remember this fact: All of what Heibert taught was "theory!"
The Monastery Story: "It's a Process"
Once Walborn is through making his case for a centered-set scenario he gives us an example--an appalling example-- of what he was teaching in the classroom, and how he led those students on a monastery retreat. This story, highlighted in the final segment of the article, is called: "It's a Process."
Walborn takes us into his Nyack bounded/centered set lecture at its end-- the point at which the students have now begun to react by weeping. Of those weeping Walborn writes, "A big young man stood up, a junior youth ministry major from a "fundamentalist" background. 'O God," he sobbed, 'I'm so tired.'" (Language unprintable!) Walborn then confesses that because of this student's language he imagined that the then Nyack president's wife Betzi Schroeder, who was present during that class, might react badly; but instead she told the young man not to censor a thing--just let it out.
Walborn continues, "A few weeks later I led the students on a retreat at a Catholic Monastery. I put this young man in a field next to a statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. I said, 'I want you to process your anger.' Walborn adds, "I'm just happy Mary didn't drop the baby Jesus to cover her ears ..." Walborn then goes on to apologize to a nun that just happens by.
The Readers Respond:
Now the readers' responses to Walborn's article ranged from riveting to right on every single point.
No one dared to examine, test, or question Walborn's bounded/centered set notions, nor his use of a M. Robert Mulholland's "ground breaking" book full of contemplative and Catholic authors.
As to "It's a Process" story one lone former Catholic, now CMA member, issued a timely warning. No one else seemed the least concerned about CMA students on a monastery retreat!
A Timely Warning: (April 6, 2015)
T. wrote, "I grew up in the apostate Roman Catholic church. ... I currently am listening to Pastor John Soper (Ridgeway, NY CMA) and his 91 week series ... This past week I listened to his review of Luke 22, and in that review he warns about the non-biblical Roman Catholic teaching of transubstantiation ... changing a wafer into the actual flesh of Jesus (another Jesus!) ... so my concern is that Ron Walborn in "The Process" is promoting the praying to a statue of Mary, which is part of the Roman Catholic false doctrine of prayer intercession through Mary and the 'saints,' thus promoting the Roman Catholic church. This is a very dangerous path to begin to go down, so please, stop this practice of promoting Roman Catholicism, which is not a Christian church, and its pagan practices in 'your' magazine, as it will mislead some to believe that the Roman Catholic church is indeed a bible-believing church ..."
One Last Thought:
What a contradictory article, an article where Walborn claims to want these run away sheep--these prodigal type rebels-- to throw off their worldly clothing and return to the fold; while at the same time he takes these very same students straight into the arms of Rome with all its apostasy and false teachings on a monastery retreat. Something is wrong with this picture. And that something is that Walborn as well as many others, are introducing a new and different gospel "a wider road gospel", and in the case of the monastery, as the former Catholic responder so clearly points out, "another Jesus gospel." However, dear reader, what needs to be done is to return to "the narrow way gospel" which leads to real life! As the Scripture says, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13,14)
Learn to Discern Granny Verses: II Timothy 4:2-4
"Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will 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 to fables."
For More Information:
An informative Lighthouse Trails Booklet: How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church by Roger Oakland.
On the back cover Oakland writes, "If the Emerging Church continues unfolding at the present pace, mainstream evangelical Christianity will be reinvented and the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures will be considered too narrow and too restrictive. In other words, the narrow way to heaven that Jesus proclaimed will eventually be abandoned for a wider way."