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Dr. Abel Pienaar’s Unbiblical Views

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

In his article on Jesus Christ and His gospel (The Old Pastor and I) Dr. Abel Pienaar of the Renaissance Congregation in Pretoria advances various views which directly contradict biblical teachings. The following are most significant:

Contemporary (multireligious) spirituality

Who is Dr. Abel Pienaar? On the website of the Centre of Contemporary Spirituality (http://www.spiritualiteit.co.za/) he is introduced as follows:

“Dr. Abel Pienaar was elected as the first director of the Centre of Contemporary Spirituality (CCS). The five founding members of CCS are Prof. Celia Kourie, Prof. Kobus Krüger, Prof. Hansie Wolmarans, Dr. Piet Muller, and Dr. Abel Pienaar. Abel Pienaar holds two degrees in Theology (University of Pretoria) and a doctorate in Philosophy of Religion. For eleven years he served as full-time pastor of a macro congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in Pretoria. During this time he was elected to the Synod’s position of Director of their Centre for Spirituality, a position which he occupied until his resignation from the DRC in 2006. Abel studied under Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Buddhist, France) and also learned from the present Dalai Lama, Fr. Thomas Keating, Bishop John Selby Spong, Ken Wilber, Sam Harris etc. Abel is pastor of Renaissance, a gnostic congregation in Pretoria. During the past three years, Abel also served on the executive management committee of the New Reformation Network. He has a full-time practice as an inner awareness therapist, and runs a meditation studio where he offers weekly classes on meditation.”

The Bible was metaphorically written during a pre-scientific period

According to Dr. Pienaar, Jesus spoke in metaphors so his undeveloped and poorly educated contemporaries would better understand what he wanted to convey to them. Abel is of the opinion that we should not make the mistake of literally interpreting these metaphors, but rather read the Bible as a mythological text. He tries to make a strong case in favour of the view that the real (historical) Jesus is not the same person as the Jesus of faith who is proclaimed in most churches.

Abel is a modern gnostic

What is Gnosticism? Since the time of the early Christian church theological development was strongly influenced by philosophy. Initially, it was the pagan Greek philosophy of Plato that had the greatest impact on religious thinking. Since the first century, Gnosticism developed concurrently with evangelical beliefs on the deity and incarnation of the Lord Jesus. This philosophy was derived from the concept “gnosis” (intuitive religious knowledge) and teaches that knowledge, rather than faith, is the key to salvation. This philosophy enjoyed great support until the sixth century and during that time perverted the truth of various theological concepts. It was developed with the purpose of making the Christian religion more acceptable to Greek-speaking intelligentsia, but in the process the biblical concept of God was fundamentally distorted.

Gnosticism has strongly revived in the present postmodern time in which biblical Christianity is widely challenged. Dr. Pienaar describes himself as a gnostic and attached more significance to the extra-Biblical “Gnostic Gospels” than to the four Gospels of the Bible. He explains his view on the website: http://www.renaissancegem.co.za/gesprek-abel-pienaar.php.

On the deity of Jesus and the significance of His crucifixion

To Abel Pienaar, Jesus is neither Christ nor God, and definitely not unique as far as his message is concerned. He says, “I am also a follower of Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, Gibran and Ghandi; also of Socrates, Sartre, Proust, Darwin, Bohr, André Comte-Spongville and various others. ... That does not mean that I regard them to be God.”

He does not at all accept Christ’s work of atonement on the cross. According to him, that was only a way of demonstrating to us that the egoistic self should die, and that we should not condemn or “crucify” others when they hold different views from ours. Abel says the following on the crucifixion and deity of Jesus: “A Jesus figure who died for me on a cross does not work for me. ... Jesus, like Buddha before him, tried to explain to us that we, like they, have divinity within us – that everything is one with God, one with life, and one with everything else.”

Comments by Johan Malan

Dr. Abel Pienaar is openly critical of Protestant and evangelical Christianity. In a democratic country it is the “constitutional right” of every person to believe and proclaim anything, and this probably induced Abel, in 2006, to resign from the senior position which he held in the Dutch Reformed Church. The agnostic views which he openly entertains, in which evangelical Christianity is presented as a naive myth from a pre-scientific era, should be countered by evangelical believers with an equal degree of boldness. At least we know without any doubt where we stand with him, since he does not claim to represent Protestantism or evangelical Christianity.

A much more alarming phenomenon is the fact that various Protestant theologians, from whom Scripture-bound views could be expected, to a larger or smaller degree also subscribe to the views proclaimed by Abel Pienaar. Because their attack on the pure doctrine of the Bible comes from the inner circles of professing Christian churches, it therefore poses a much bigger threat to theological students and members of Protestant churches.

Paul warned against internal theological apostatising of this nature, and also referred to its serious consequences: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30). This backsliding occurred in an evangelical church in Ephesus. Even before the end of the first century AD, the deception in preaching caused the congregation to abandon their first love, Jesus Christ. From the Lord’s point of view they backslid into a position from where they had to repent anew (Rev. 2:4-5).

Timothy was warned against the same problem, and motivated to counter it by the continued proclaiming of biblical truths: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:2-4; cf. 2 Pet. 2:1-2).

The false teachers referred to in this section were initially established in the truth but later turned away from it for the sake of popularity among their wayward church members. They started proclaiming fables and myths in order to allow people to believe and to do as they wished. Exactly the same thing is happening today – false prophets are labelling sound biblical truths as myths, e.g. the virgin birth, deity and atoning death of Jesus, as well as His resurrection from the dead and His ascension. In stead of these firmly rooted facts they now proclaim myths from the Eastern religions, particularly self-deification and transcendental meditation. They also observe speculative “scientific” theories such as the evolution theory. They themselves are, therefore, the mythologists of our time, and not the evangelical Christians whom they unjustifiably charge as supporting unscientific myths.

John says that there were always false prophets, and for that reason Christians should not blindly accept any teaching but rather test it for its authenticity (1 John 4:1). A person’s message is tested by comparing it with Scriptural truths in order to determine whether it is true or false. Establish beyond any doubt what a particular person believes on core truths of the Bible. What are his views on the Trinity, the Person and works of Jesus Christ (particularly His deity and work of grace on the cross), on the resurrection and eternal life, the literal fulfilling of biblical prophecies, on heaven, hell, the devil, and also on sin – not only violence, drunkenness, and theft, but also sins such as homosexuality, agnosticism and idolatry.

Christians who fail to investigate the purity of the doctrine which is proclaimed in their churches will soon be exposed to serious deception (2 Cor. 11:2-4). When they become followers of false prophets they will be just as guilty as their deluded leaders. Those who put a high premium on the truth of the Bible not only honour the Lord but also save themselves from much distress: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).