[notice]Andre Viljoen interviews theologian, pastor and author, Dave Doveton, about his book The Way of Balaam which is reviewed in our books section. Doveton believes God called him to write the book and to a mission of alerting Christian leaders to an old evil that poses a present danger to the church.[/notice]
Western Culture has traded its Christian heritage for a pagan spirituality that wants to destroy Christianity. Yet many Christian leaders dismiss, ignore or don’t recognise the serious threat to the Church, says Christian author Dave Doveton.
He says that the West was secular for many years, paying little heed to the Church. But a spiritual vacuum developed and in recent years many spiritual beliefs flooded into that vacuum.
“We are at a point where we are becoming like the ancient Roman empire which had a great variety of pagan cults. It was not just a case that everybody in the empire was free to have their own belief. Rather, true Christians found themselves at war because these spiritualities wanted to crush Christian belief. That’s the direction we are going.”
Likening the culture shift in the United States, England and Europe where “people who stand for their Christian beliefs can find themselves in jail” to an “earthquake”, Doveton says that the shakeup may seem peripheral to Christians in South Africa at the moment “but it will hit us”.
He says the culture changes are infiltrating and shaping sections of the Church, giving rise to a militant form of paganism that masquerades as Christianity but is inherently anti-Christian.
“Part of purpose of the book is to alert Christian leaders. Because if we as leaders don’t know what is happening around us, how are we going to help people in the fellowship deal with these issues and be on their guard against what threatens to sweep them away?” says Doveton.
A former civil engineer who answered a call into the ministry in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in the early 1980s, Doveton says he never expected to write a book because he never considered himself to be a competent writer. But after the global Anglican Communion began to divide after the Episcopal Church in America ordained a practicing homosexual in 1983 he felt compelled to write articles on these developments. This began a journey which led to the publication of his book last year.
3rd Century heresy
Doveton says as he researched false teachings that were appearing in mainline denominations, as well as in free churches and pentecostal churches — mainly through the Emergent Church Movement — he discovered they all had a common root. The teachings were not new but were a new form of the Gnostic heresy that threatened the Christian Church in the 3rd Century.
While orthodox Christianity regards Scripture as the authoritative revelation of God, Gnostics say that Scripture is valuable but not as valid as their personal experience or feelings, even if that experience should conflict with the word of God. Hence Gnostics feel entitled to present themselves as Christian but hold unbiblical views on issues such as sexual identity and the uniqueness of Christ.
“Once you throw out the authority of scripture in one area it all unravels,” says Doveton.
“Gender is a key issue because gender is part of our image. We were made in the image of God, male and female, and that’s part of our foundation. And Paul speaks about marriage as a picture of our relationship with Christ and God designed it that way.
Male and female
“God put the Gospel into creation long before it came along. And it speaks the truth about God and human beings, and that God is different from us just as male is different from female, and yet it is possible to have that wonderful relationship with God through Christ. If you demolish that and gender doesn’t matter, then male and female are interchangeable; there is no difference. And that’s the essence of paganism that tries to destroy the created order and the difference that God has made in creation.”
Doveton says that people encouraged him to keep on writing articles, saying he made difficult issues clear. He was also invited by US theologian and author Prof Peter Jones, to join a US-based think-tank on how culture was shaping the church. Gradually he came to believe that God really wanted him to write a book. By 2005, when he was preparing to take up a missionary theological teaching post in Mauritius he had amassed a lot of research. During his time in Mauritius he collated the material and wrote his book. He says living in a country where Hinduism is the main faith and “mixed faith” marriages are common, helped him to crystallise his thoughts about exactly what he believes and what Scripture lays down. Part of his work in Mauritius was to equip Christians in where to draw lines in standing for their faith without being obnoxious to others.
He returned to South Africa in 2011 and currently pastors two parishes in Port Elizabeth and is Dean of Studies of the new, distance learning Stellenbosch Theological Institute — a joint venture between the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and Shofar Christian Church.
Doveton sees his calling to alert church leaders to the threat of pagan spirituality as a long-term mission. He hopes his book will inspire Christian leaders to “talk about and face these issues”.
He says The Way of Balaam has been well received by many lay Christians. He has received a few nasty emails accusing him of hate speech. But mostly, his frustration is leaders who persist in trying to ignore the issues or who are “perfectly happy with what is taking place”.
- See review of The Way of Balaam