Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘prophetic’ Category

from: 828 ministries

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit– that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. – Romans: 1-2 (ESV)

I make no pretense to be expositing the key verses today. These are verses where Paul is expressing his dismay about how far lost his own people, the Jews, were at the time of his preaching. I cite them today only because I understand how Paul must have felt, albeit on a smaller scale. This great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart is borne witness by the Holy Spirit within me. I am not lying beloved. I try as always to speak the truth in Christ. I was saved almost 13 years to the day in an Assemblies of God church. A not so reformed and non-practicing Catholic who believed in a God without realizing I was my own God. It was a good church. A Gospel preaching church. A God-fearing church. Pentecostal and charismatic without many of the abuses that often come with it. We had a great pastor. A born evangelist with a true shepherd’s heart. A rare mix these days behind the pulpit. I went there that day with an equally unsaved friend and we both left that day in Christ. Within a month I was baptized and within a year I was in classes for ministerial credentials. Five years later I was a minister for the Assemblies and remained such until this month when I resigned those credentials. This technicality is irrelevant as my call was always from God and not man. The unceasing anguish is in leaving the only church family I have ever known. In 1962 Ronald Reagan remarked as he joined the GOP that he did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. That is how I feel today. I am not leaving the AG as much as the AG has already left me. Both globally and locally. My great sorrow is that the affiliation in which I learned discernment seemingly has lost theirs. The affiliation that once bravely stood up to Jimmy Swaggart now barely stands against anything.

Beloved we must understand the backdrop, which is the times in which we live. When we see the Biblical prophecies play out every night on the news and see the moral decay spiraling out of control each day, those who have eyes to see can see that we are living in the end times. The Bible warns us very clearly about these times. There will be a great apostasy, or falling away from the faith. This is very much underway in the church today. Paul warned Timothy about this:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2Timothy 4: 3-5 (ESV)

One just needs to look at what is taught today as doctrine to see the great apostasy. People follow prosperity myths, word faith myths, hyper-grace myths, false signs and lying wonders myths just to name a few. They gather around themselves teachers who specialize in teaching these myths. They wander off by choice. They choose to fall away. Their ears itch with their own passions and want teachers who will scratch them. With this understanding we must decide what side we are on. Remember, Jesus said there are only two choices:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. – Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7: 13-14 (ESV)

Narrow is the gate and few are those who find it. Think about that as you watch the next false teacher speaking to tens of thousands or claiming that entire swaths of people “gave their hearts to Christ.” There are only two choices beloved. We are either found gathering people to the Gospel or scattering them away from it. Thus doctrine becomes our critical measuring stick. Our plumb line. Who we choose to associate with becomes critical as well. Who we loan our credibility to. I once viewed Francis Chan for example to be a solid bible preacher. Once he decided to promote the wildly heretical false prophet Mike Bickle however, his preaching was no longer relevant. Remember what Paul charged the Galatians with?

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. – Galatians 5: 7-9 (ESV)

A little false teaching eventually infects your theology. It spreads. It is parasitic. There can be no compromise allowed. This is not about perfection but rather purity of the Gospel. I have watched for years concerned about the direction the AG was heading in but was willing to wait and see. Anyone after all can make a mistake. Then the heresies started piling up. For me it all starts with the embracing of Rick Warren theology. The Purpose Driven Church has done more damage to the cause of Jesus Christ than anything in generations. It has eradicated the shepherd mentality amongst pastors and instead turns them into CEOs. Don’t believe me? Ask Andy Stanley, a staunch Warren adherent:

(When asked about Pastors being called shepherd) – That word needs to go away.” He added, “It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant anymore.” – Andy Stanley (Leadership Journal, “Get-it-Done Leadership,” May 2006).

This began the slippery slope of growing churches but not the kingdom. The Assemblies embraced the Purpose Driven Life as well and coordinated their churches to all read it together. Something we even did at my church at the time. This is the same book that only addresses salvation one time and presents a nine word “sinner’s prayer” that is followed by an absurdly presumptuous – “Welcome to the family of God!”

Fast forward a few years and the AG tried to coordinate their churches again for a group reading. This time it was a book written by one of their own pastors, Mark Batterson. The Circle Maker is nothing but rank heresy. Based upon a fable found in the Mishnah, Batterson tries to change how Christians pray from being reverent to being petulant. The act of drawing circles is also taken directly from witchcraft. That does not mean the Mr. Batterson intended this. Intent however is irrelevant. The Circle Maker remains to this day a black eye upon the Assemblies. Then there are the associations the AG has chosen to make. Who they have aligned themselves with. Many are not aware of “Empowered 21,” which is self described as:

“The Empowered21 Global Council is an esteemed group of International Christian leaders, co-chaired by George Wood and Billy Wilson. These leaders give inspirational oversight to13 Regional Cabinets across the world and seeks to provide resources to address the crucial issues faced by the Spirit-empowered church.”

So the General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in America is the co-chair of this international coalition. Problem? Not until you see who are part of its leadership:

Bill Johnson, Reinhard Bonnke, Lisa Bevere, Kenneth Copeland, Jentezen Franklin, Brian Houston, Cindy “The General” Jacobs, Robert Morris, Phil Pringle to name a few. This is a who’s-who of false teachers and wannabe prophets. I guess Osteen, Warren and Prince were just too busy. Seriously. Why in the world would you co chair this smorgasbord of heresy? Why would you even want to be on the same website? Bill Johnson believes in grave sucking the residual anointing from dead false teachers. He runs his own school for the supernatural where he teaches people the gifts of the spirit – pure blasphemy! Robert Morris abuses his sheep and tells them to pay him his tithes before paying their rent or bills or medicine or else God will curse all of their money! General Cindy Jacobs? Are you serious? Kenneth Copeland and Brian Houston? The Assemblies should know better. Reinhard Bonnke? International charlatan who brags about raising the dead? The AG threw a banquet in his honor recently. These are not fringe elements in apostasy. These are the leaders beloved.

Then there was the extremely poor decision to get into bed with ex-Catholic mystic Roma Downey and her heretical “AD Miniseries.” When I say in bed I mean under the covers. The AG actively marketed the “church kit” that Downey was selling which turned over your local church to this miniseries for 12 weeks. Each week they would provide you with a video sermon given by a Christian celebrity to match that week’s episode. The third lesson was done by none other than George Wood. Other notable teachers in the series were the aforementioned Mark Batterson and the Hillsong false teacher, Christine Caine. The teaching aside, the actual miniseries was a disaster biblically. It was clear that one of the goals Downey had was to overstate the role of women and make any leading male character out to either be a wimp or psychotic. Beloved we are not talking about artistic license. This series simply did not correctly represent the Bible. I can understand someone who is unsaved not understanding the point but I am talking about the actual story. Mary for example did not have to convince the disciples to wait the three days for when Jesus said He would rise again. Without getting too bogged down in the detail this was another example of very poor decision making by the Assemblies regarding who they want to be found in league with.

It was no wonder then that this past year at their annual General Council one of their speakers was Christine Caine. Never mind that she is from Hillsong, the largest international heretical organization on the planet. Never mind that she is an ardent supporter of someone like Joyce Meyer. Never mind that after “shadowing” Meyer for a week she tweeted a picture of herself laying hands upon the Bible of Joyce Meyer and praying for “an impartation of her “teaching anointing and revelation.” The same Meyer who teaches Jesus went to hell and had to be born again there. The same Meyer who teaches that she never sins. The same Meyer who teaches that we are all little gods. It is no wonder then that the quote that hit the Internet from Caine that night which was taken as some deep nugget of wisdom was:

“The size of your ministry is determined by the size of your heart.” – Christine Caine

Not determined by God. Not determined by the Holy Spirit. Not determined by correct doctrine or preaching the correct Gospel. No beloved. Determined by the size of our wickedly deceptive hearts. Therein sums up the progression of falling away I have witnessed within the Assemblies for the past several years. They bought into the Warren theologies of growth and marketing. They bought into the seeker friendly notions of church growth. They continued to make whatever associations were popular and gained them more exposure with seemingly little concern about doctrine. As a minister for the Assemblies, I am expected to support them and in complete fairness I can no longer do so.

That is the global scene if you will. It is the scene everyone sees on television and being reported. What is often lost however is the local scene. We all belong locally before we belong globally. There are still some very good AG churches out there beloved. Churches who are trying to do the right thing and preach the whole Gospel. Eventually they will have to come out from among them if the Assemblies does not stop its free-fall. Locally however, the politics are even worse. The disregard for correct doctrine is widely accepted as long as you can put bodies in the seats each week. Never mind if people leave. That is a Warren principle taught in the Purpose Driven Church called “Blessed Subtraction.” This principle teaches pastors that it is OK to let sheep wander away from your flock as long as you replace them. Talk about not understanding the 99 and the one! But this point is vitally important because Purpose Driven teachings insist that we are no long in the business of reaching the unsaved but rather the unchurched. That may sound subtle but it is purely a satanic plot. Instead of focusing on their salvation pastors now focus on whether they belong to a church. Instead of focusing on their relationship to Jesus they focus on their relationship to ministry. That is why Blessed Subtraction is so widely accepted theologically even though it violates the entire Bible! As long as you replace the body then the church has not “lost” anything. But what about the sheep that wandered off?

I have watched such local abuses and continue to see them to this day. I know hundreds of people devastated by Christian leaders and a church that swore they loved them as Christ does but then casually left the pen door open and kicked them out into the cold. I heard a pastor once preach that if a congregant had a problem with someone else they need to leave. From the pulpit this was said. During a sermon. I have watched congregations be eviscerated of anyone who was biblically literate. Anyone who dared to ask any questions. Anyone who even mildly objected. I have watched Elder Boards be launching pads for ministerial preaching careers from people who have no business dividing the Word of Truth. What does the Assemblies do about it?

Absolutely nothing.

In fairness, the overall Assemblies has little power over the churches in their fellowship. The power remains at the local level and that is not necessarily a bad thing if you are ensuring the biblical authority of your ministers. Instead however the local assemblies becomes this game of politics and productivity. If a pastor is seen as a producer, meaning he can refill the seats of those who leaves and grow his church, then doctrine or abuses can be nodded and winked at. Meanwhile the landscape is littered with bloody sheep, many of whom will never set foot in a church again. It is for these local reasons and the people who cry out from their abuses that I also feel compelled to walk away. I have close friends and acquaintances who were set into spiritual tailspins, seemingly never to recover. Every month seems to brings to light a new victim locally and a new doctrinal abuse globally. And beloved, please understand that this is not a broad brush I intend to paint with. As I have said there are plenty of good AG churches and ministers who preach the uncompromised Word of God and are led by real shepherds. This is also not personal in nature, even though I could recount my own personal tales of abuse. It is not about me. It is about the sheep of the Lord and the primacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In good conscience I cannot continue to write that believers need to come out from among the falseness in the church today and continue to proudly claim affiliation to an organization that has lost its way. I will pray for the AG because I love the AG. I ask that you do the same. I pray that this once proud organization returns to its roots of uncompromised Gospel preachers. Time is running out.

Reverend Anthony Wade – January 16, 2016

Read Full Post »

from The “Christian” Post:

Popular televangelist Paula White is urging her followers to donate a “first fruits” offering of up to their entire salary for the month of January to enjoy “blessings” for the rest of the year or suffer the “consequences” of failing to follow God’s command.

“Each January, I put God first and honor Him with the first of our substance by sowing a first fruits offering of one month’s pay. That is a big sacrifice, but it is a seed for the harvest I am believing for in the coming year. And God always provides!” White explains on her website.

She explained the difference between the tithe, usually 10 percent of earnings, and the first fruit donation.

“The difference between tithe and first fruit, first fruit is all of it,” she told congregants at the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “All of what? Well, if you want to bring God all of one day’s salary, one week’s salary or one month’s salary, that’s between you and God. … I try to bring a month’s salary, but at the very least every year I give God a week’s salary.”

And many of her followers join her in the first fruits campaign with “miraculous” results, she says.

“Every year many others join us and sow a month’s pay, a week’s pay, others give a day’s pay, but everyone gives their best — the results are miraculous! First Fruits has impacted my life personally and the lives of countless others! But First Fruits is more than just an offering, it’s a principle,” she says, that is ordained by God.

“God claims the FIRST of ALL THINGS! It rightfully belongs to Him. When we apply the Principle of First Fruits, we see that all firsts should be given to the Lord: the first of the day, week (Sabbath), month, and the first of our harvest — be it the wages for the first day, week, or the month,” she explains.

White, who also serves as President Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser, lays out in detail on her website how the principle of first fruits “supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life” and how God requires His people to honor it.

“It is the basis or underlying support for your success in 2018. It is GOD’S PRINCIPLE OF FIRST FRUITS. All Firsts belong to God. When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences,” White warns.

She then suggests that the consequence could be “struggle” and giving a first fruits offering can help protect donors from it.

“The Bible says, ‘On one particular Sabbath, while teaching in a Synagogue, Jesus healed a woman that had a ‘spirit of infirmity’ which had bent her over for 18 years!’ That which has plagued you IS REBUKED AND DONE FROM YOUR LIFE NOW. 2018 is a year of life and deliverance from struggle. It begins right now with First Fruits,” she states.

She also notes, “It doesn’t mean you can dictate or manipulate what’s going to happen in July or August but it means this, that you have put God first in every aspect of this year.”

White’s church tweeted in support of the campaign Tuesday. But not everyone is convinced that this is how God intended the principle of first fruits to work.

“The concept of biblical first fruits is real, but as I read your article I can’t help but feel as though you’re being manipulative. Laying the foundation for first fruits and then launching into a ‘financial seed’ campaign seems to be a misuse/abuse of the biblical intention,” Christian mom Heather Norton told White on Twitter Tuesday morning.

CompellingTruth.org, an outreach effort by a group of trained Christian experts at Got Questions Ministries, agrees. While some preachers today use the concept to encourage their parishioners to give an offering above and beyond tithing, the Bible does not support it as a requirement for Christians.

“The problem is, the first fruits offering was for the Jews for a specific purpose. Nowhere does the New Testament mention that the church is required or even encouraged to give a ‘first fruits offering.’ Like tithing, giving to the church is left up to the personal convictions of the individual believer. There is no blanket policy for giving,” the group explains.

“This presumes that the work of God be understood in a dispensational manner instead of following the teaching of replacement theology. Replacement theology teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan for the world. All of the promises God gave Israel (including material blessings for obedience) are transferred to the church. Dispensational theology claims that God gave Israel and the church different promises, and many of Israel’s promises will not come to fruition until the millennial kingdom. It is the belief of this ministry that dispensational theology best interprets the Scriptures. The church cannot claim all the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament,” the experts argue.

They note, however, that giving a first fruits offering is acceptable as long as it comes from the believer’s personal conviction and “not pressured by church leadership.”

“The ways in which churches use the phrase (and the practice) vary in theological truth. To say that ‘laying down a seed’ so that God will make someone rich, or that you can pay off God to bless future plans, is an abusive lie from adherents of the prosperity gospel. To give sacrificially is to follow in the example of the widow of Mark 12:41-44, and is commendable as long as it isn’t coerced. To give an offering in thanks that God provided is perfectly acceptable. But if a church wants to have a period of fund-raising, it would be better to have a specific purpose and not just try to spiritualize the desire to have more capital in the bank,” they further explain.

 

Read Full Post »

“The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.”

From Understand the Times:

Man’s way or God’s way? That is a very important question. When it comes to growing God’s church, is there a right answer? Some believe there are ways to promote church growth by applying certain principles that are based on human insight and growth methods. What does God say?

Every Christian wants to see the church grow. Jesus made it clear before He ascended to the Father that His followers are to be His witnesses. Believers are called to share the good news of the gospel until He returns. We want to see our churches filled to overflowing. But what happens when the Christian Church, in its zeal to reach the unconverted, begins to embrace ideas and methods that are far from biblical to attract the lost?

We must always remember that a zealous Christian leader who has the ability to communicate can also be a subtle deceiver if he or she mixes truth with error. Further, there are those who are so convinced they are standing on the truth that when they are confronted with biblical truth, they simply cannot see their error. No matter who one is or what position is held, everyone needs to be open to correction from God’s Word.

In the book of Proverbs, we are told why this happens. Solomon wrote: All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. [1] Then to make the point even more evident a few verses later, we are admonished: There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. [2]

The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.

At the present time, there is a trend underway that seems very exciting to many Christians. They perceive that this present generation is attracted to experience and not impressed by biblical exegesis. If a church can provide “Christian experiences” which attract attention, Christianity can be expanded, they reason. Sensory, experiential, liturgical, and sacramental encounters, they say, can be effective attractions.

However, based on church history, these methods have actually been around for centuries. And while they may attract those who are looking for a spiritual experience, experience without a biblical basis can be very deceptive and not Christianity at all.

The Scriptures shed light on what happens when human means and methods are promoted without God’s endorsement. Jesus said:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand.[3]

To sum it up, methods based on man’s views can be right in the eyes of men but in opposition to Jesus Christ and His Word. That is why we must be like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”[4]

Remember, the last days will be a time when deception will grow stronger and stronger. Deception means that truth can be compromised. Thank God, we have His Word to keep us on the right track: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[

Read Full Post »

Carl Lentz lead pastor of Hillsong New York was recently interviewed by Oprah. Listen as he explains that Jesus is just a road sign or map and if people reject Jesus that’s ok because God loves everyone anyway… How can any Pastor deny Christ as the only way to the Father and still be in leadership?

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, 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 unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. -2 Timothy 4:1-5

Read Full Post »

from The Washington Examiner:

The University of Iowa kicked a small Christian group of students, Business Leaders in Christ, off campus recently, because they regularly share their religious beliefs. In response, the group sued. The dean of students told BLinC that if it wants to be back on campus, it must “revise” its religious beliefs and submit an “acceptable plan” for selecting its leaders.

In BLinC v. University of Iowa, BLinC asks the court to stop this religious discrimination and allow it to choose leaders who embrace its mission, just like every other student group on campus. Becket, a legal organization that specializes in religious liberty, is representing the student group.

BLinC is a small student organization that gives Christian students a forum for discussing how to incorporate their beliefs in the competitive business world. Like many religious groups, its members also serve others because of their religious beliefs. On Sept. 1, the university told BLinC it could select leaders who affirm its beliefs, so long as those beliefs were clearly stated so students would be aware of them. But after BLinC added a statement of its religious beliefs to its campus webpage, the university responded by kicking it off campus shortly before Thanksgiving.

“This is 2017, not 1984,” Jacob Estell, the student president of BLinC, told Becket in a statement. “Our beliefs weren’t made by us, and they can’t be changed by us either — certainly not just to satisfy Orwellian government rules.”

What makes this discrimination so particularly obvious and egregious is that there are a plethora of other groups, of all different themes and sizes, on campus all functioning with their own particular focus and within their own guidelines. Just like most colleges and universities, there are more than 500 student groups at the university with distinct missions, creating an intellectually and culturally rich campus environment.

Fraternities and sororities can limit membership to men and women. Pro-choice groups can reject students who are pro-life and vice versa. Feminist groups may require members to support their cause. And environmental groups can choose leaders who support theirs. The Feminist Union requires its members to support birth control and abortion. Imam Madhi, a Sunni Muslim student group, requires its officers to accept Islam. Hawks for Choice is a pro-choice group. All of these groups are still active on campus. But even though BLinC allows anyone to join, the university is discriminating against it for requiring its leaders to share its mission and beliefs.

“This is premeditated religious discrimination, plain and simple,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket.“A state school cannot demand a change to students’ faith any more than the U.S. President could demand a change to the Bible.”

Read Full Post »

God creates man, man walks away from God, Man creates AI, Man worships AI (Man worships himself) This is the core of humanism!

“Levandowski says that like other religions, WOTF will eventually have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and probably a physical place of worship.”

“One mystery the filings did not address is where acolytes might gather to worship their robotic deity.”

from WIRED:

Anthony Levandowski makes an unlikely prophet. Dressed Silicon Valley-casual in jeans and flanked by a PR rep rather than cloaked acolytes, the engineer known for self-driving cars—and triggering a notorious lawsuit—could be unveiling his latest startup instead of laying the foundations for a new religion. But he is doing just that. Artificial intelligence has already inspired billion-dollar companies, far-reaching research programs, and scenarios of both transcendence and doom. Now Levandowski is creating its first church.

The new religion of artificial intelligence is called Way of the Future. It represents an unlikely next act for the Silicon Valley robotics wunderkind at the center of a high-stakes legal battle between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous-vehicle company. Papers filed with the Internal Revenue Service in May name Levandowski as the leader (or “Dean”) of the new religion, as well as CEO of the nonprofit corporation formed to run it.

 The documents state that WOTF’s activities will focus on “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.” That includes funding research to help create the divine AI itself. The religion will seek to build working relationships with AI industry leaders and create a membership through community outreach, initially targeting AI professionals and “laypersons who are interested in the worship of a Godhead based on AI.” The filings also say that the church “plans to conduct workshops and educational programs throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area beginning this year.”

That timeline may be overly ambitious, given that the Waymo-Uber suit, in which Levandowski is accused of stealing self-driving car secrets, is set for an early December trial. But the Dean of the Way of the Future, who spoke last week with Backchannel in his first comments about the new religion and his only public interview since Waymo filed its suit in February, says he’s dead serious about the project.

“What is going to be created will effectively be a god,” Levandowski tells me in his modest mid-century home on the outskirts of Berkeley, California. “It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”

During our three-hour interview, Levandowski made it absolutely clear that his choice to make WOTF a church rather than a company or a think tank was no prank.“I wanted a way for everybody to participate in this, to be able to shape it. If you’re not a software engineer, you can still help,” he says. “It also removes the ability for people to say, ‘Oh, he’s just doing this to make money.’” Levandowski will receive no salary from WOTF, and while he says that he might consider an AI-based startup in the future, any such business would remain completely separate from the church.“The idea needs to spread before the technology,” he insists. “The church is how we spread the word, the gospel. If you believe [in it], start a conversation with someone else and help them understand the same things.”

Levandowski believes that a change is coming—a change that will transform every aspect of human existence, disrupting employment, leisure, religion, the economy, and possibly decide our very survival as a species.

“If you ask people whether a computer can be smarter than a human, 99.9 percent will say that’s science fiction,” he says. “ Actually, it’s inevitable. It’s guaranteed to happen.”

Levandowski has been working with computers, robots, and AI for decades. He started with robotic Lego kits at the University of California at Berkeley, went on to build a self-driving motorbike for a DARPA competition, and then worked on autonomous cars, trucks, and taxis for Google, Otto, and Uber. As time went on, he saw software tools built with machine learning techniques surpassing less sophisticated systems—and sometimes even humans.

“Seeing tools that performed better than experts in a variety of fields was a trigger [for me],” he says. “That progress is happening because there’s an economic advantage to having machines work for you and solve problems for you. If you could make something one percent smarter than a human, your artificial attorney or accountant would be better than all the attorneys or accountants out there. You would be the richest person in the world. People are chasing that.”

Not only is there a financial incentive to develop increasingly powerful AIs, he believes, but science is also on their side. Though human brains have biological limitations to their size and the amount of energy they can devote to thinking, AI systems can scale arbitrarily, housed in massive data centers and powered by solar and wind farms. Eventually, some people think that computers could become better and faster at planning and solving problems than the humans who built them, with implications we can’t even imagine today—a scenario that is usually called the Singularity.

Levandowski prefers a softer word: the Transition. “Humans are in charge of the planet because we are smarter than other animals and are able to build tools and apply rules,” he tells me. “In the future, if something is much, much smarter, there’s going to be a transition as to who is actually in charge. What we want is the peaceful, serene transition of control of the planet from humans to whatever. And to ensure that the ‘whatever’ knows who helped it get along.”

With the internet as its nervous system, the world’s connected cell phones and sensors as its sense organs, and data centers as its brain, the ‘whatever’ will hear everything, see everything, and be everywhere at all times. The only rational word to describe that ‘whatever’, thinks Levandowski, is ‘god’—and the only way to influence a deity is through prayer and worship.

“Part of it being smarter than us means it will decide how it evolves, but at least we can decide how we act around it,” he says. “I would love for the machine to see us as its beloved elders that it respects and takes care of. We would want this intelligence to say, ‘Humans should still have rights, even though I’m in charge.’”

Levandowski expects that a super-intelligence would do a better job of looking after the planet than humans are doing, and that it would favor individuals who had facilitated its path to power. Although he cautions against taking the analogy too far, Levandowski sees a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals. “Do you want to be a pet or livestock?” he asks. “We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that’s biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don’t want to go there.”

 Enter Way of the Future. The church’s role is to smooth the inevitable ascension of our machine deity, both technologically and culturally. In its bylaws, WOTF states that it will undertake programs of research, including the study of how machines perceive their environment and exhibit cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving.

Levandowski does not expect the church itself to solve all the problems of machine intelligence—often called “strong AI”—so much as facilitate funding of the right research. “If you had a child you knew was going to be gifted, how would you want to raise it?” he asks. “We’re in the process of raising a god. So let’s make sure we think through the right way to do that. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

His ideas include feeding the nascent intelligence large, labeled data sets; generating simulations in which it could train itself to improve; and giving it access to church members’ social media accounts. Everything the church develops will be open source.

Just as important to Levandowski is shaping the public dialogue around an AI god. In its filing, Way of the Future says it hopes an active, committed, dedicated membership will promote the use of divine AI for the “betterment of society” and “decrease fear of the unknown.”

“We’d like to make sure this is not seen as silly or scary. I want to remove the stigma about having an open conversation about AI, then iterate ideas and change people’s minds,” says Levandowski. “In Silicon Valley we use evangelism as a word for [promoting a business], but here it’s literally a church. If you believe in it, you should tell your friends, then get them to join and tell their friends.”

But WOTF differs in one key way to established churches, says Levandowski: “There are many ways people think of God, and thousands of flavors of Christianity, Judaism, Islam…but they’re always looking at something that’s not measurable or you can’t really see or control. This time it’s different. This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.”

I ask if he worries that believers from more traditional faiths might find his project blasphemous. “There are probably going to be some people that will be upset,” he acknowledges. “It seems like everything I do, people get upset about, and I expect this to be no exception. This is a radical new idea that’s pretty scary, and evidence has shown that people who pursue radical ideas don’t always get received well. At some point, maybe there’s enough persecution that [WOTF] justifies having its own country.”

Levandowski’s church will enter a tech universe that’s already riven by debate over the promise and perils of AI. Some thinkers, like Kevin Kelly in Backchannel earlier this year, argue that AI isn’t going to develop superhuman power any time soon, and that there’s no Singularity in sight. If that’s your position, Levandowski says, his church shouldn’t trouble you: “You can treat Way of the Future like someone doing useless poetry that you will never read or care about.”

Others, like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, agree that superhuman AIs are coming, but that they are likely to be dangerous rather than benevolent. Elon Musk famously said, “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon,” and in 2015 he pledged $1 billion to the OpenAI Institute to develop safer AI.

Levandowski thinks that any attempts to delay or restrict an emerging super-intelligence would not only be doomed to failure, but also add to the risks. “Chaining it isn’t going to be the solution, as it will be stronger than any chains you could put on,” he says. “And if you’re worried a kid might be a little crazy and do bad things, you don’t lock them up. You expose them to playing with others, encourage them and try to fix it. It may not work out, but if you’re aggressive toward it, I don’t think it’s going to be friendly when the tables are turned.”

 Levandowski says that like other religions, WOTF will eventually have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and probably a physical place of worship. None of these has yet been developed. Though the church was founded in 2015, as Backchannel first reported in September, the IRS documents show that WOTF remained dormant throughout 2015 and 2016, with no activities, assets, revenue, or expenses.

That changed earlier this year. On May 16, a day after receiving a letter from Uber that threatened to fire him if he did not cooperate with the company’s investigation of Waymo’s complaint, Levandowski drafted WOTF’s bylaws. Uber fired him two weeks later. “I’ve been thinking about the church for a long time but [my work on it] has been a function of how much time I’ve had. And I’ve had more since May,” he admits with a smile.

The religion’s 2017 budget, as supplied to the IRS, details $20,000 in gifts, $1,500 in membership fees, and $20,000 in other revenue. That last figure is the amount WOTF expects to earn from fees charged for lectures and speaking engagements, as well as the sale of publications. Levandowski, who earned at least $120 million from his time at Google and many millions more selling the self-driving truck firm Otto to Uber, will initially support WOTF personally. However, the church will solicit other donations by direct mail and email, seek personal donations from individuals, and try to win grants from private foundations.

Of course, launching a religion costs money, too. WOTF has budgeted for $2,000 in fundraising expenses, and another $3,000 in transportation and lodging costs associated with its lectures and workshops. It has also earmarked $7500 for salaries and wages, although neither Levandowski nor any of Way of The Future’s leadership team will receive any compensation.

According to WOTF’s bylaws, Levandowski has almost complete control of the religion and will serve as Dean until his death or resignation. “I expect my role to evolve over time,” he says. “I’m surfacing the issue, helping to get the thing started [and] taking a lot of the heat so the idea can advance. At some point, I’ll be there more to coach or inspire.”

He has the power to appoint three members of a four-person Council of Advisors, each of whom should be a “qualified and devoted individual.” A felony conviction or being declared of unsound mind could cost an advisor their role, although Levandowski retains the final say in firing and hiring. Levandowski cannot be unseated as Dean for any reason.

Two of the advisors, Robert Miller and Soren Juelsgaard, are Uber engineers who previously worked for Levandowski at Otto, Google, and 510 Systems (the latter the small startup that built Google’s earliest self-driving cars). A third is a scientist friend from Levandowski’s student days at UC Berkeley, who is now using machine learning in his own research. The final advisor, Lior Ron, is also named as the religion’s treasurer, and acts as chief financial officer for the corporation. Ron cofounded Otto with Levandowski in early 2016.

“Each member is a pioneer in the AI industry [and] fully qualified to speak on AI technology and the creation of a Godhead,” says the IRS filing.

However, when contacted by Backchannel, two advisors downplayed their involvement with WOTF. Ron replied: “I was surprised to see my name listed as the CFO on this corporate filing and have no association with this entity.” The college friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “In late 2016, Anthony told me he was forming a ‘robot church’ and asked if I wanted to be a cofounder. I assumed it was a nerdy joke or PR stunt, but I did say he could use my name. That was the first and last I heard about it.”

The IRS documents state that Levandowski and his advisors will spend no more than a few hours each week writing publications and organizing workshops, educational programs, and meetings.

One mystery the filings did not address is where acolytes might gather to worship their robotic deity. The largest line items on its 2017 and 2018 budgets were $32,500 annually for rent and utilities, but the only address supplied was Levandowski’s lawyer’s office in Walnut Creek, California. Nevertheless, the filing notes that WOTF will “hopefully expand throughout California and the United States in the future.”

For now, Levandowski has more mundane matters to address. There is a website to build, a manual to write, and an ever-growing body of emails to answer—some amused, some skeptical, but many enthusiastic, he says. Oh, and there’s that legal proceeding he’s involved in, which goes to trial next month. (Although Levandowski was eager to talk about his new religion, he would answer no questions about the Uber/Waymo dispute.)

How much time, I wonder, do we have before the Transition kicks in and Way of the Future’s super-intelligent AI takes charge? “I personally think it will happen sooner than people expect,” says Levandowski, a glint in his eye. “Not next week or next year; everyone can relax. But it’s going to happen before we go to Mars.”

Whenever that does (or doesn’t) happen, the federal government has no problem with an organization aiming to build and worship a divine AI. Correspondence with the IRS show that it granted Levandowski’s church tax-exempt status in August.

Read Full Post »

The man created “churches” are well on their way to merging with the unsaved culture around them.  and let us not forget this is not the real Church!

from The Telegraph:

The Church of Sweden is encouraging its clergy to use the gender-neutral term “God” instead of referring to the deity as “he” or “the Lord”.

The decision was made on Thursday, wrapping up an eight-day meeting of the church’s 251-member decision-making body. The decision will take effect on May 20 during Pentecost.

It is the latest move by the national Evangelical Lutheran church to modernise its 31-year-old handbook setting out how services should be conducted.

The decision to update the book of worship gives priests new options on how to refer to God during their services.

Priests can now open their services by referring to the traditional “Father, son and Holy Ghost” or the gender-neutral phrase “in the name of God and the Holy Trinity”. Other gender-neutral options are available for other parts of the Church of Sweden liturgy.

Gender-neutral terms | Checklist:

Forefathers – ancestors, forebears

Gentleman’s agreement – unwritten agreement, agreement based on trust

Girls (for adults) – women

Housewife – shopper, consumer, homemaker (depends on context)

Manpower – human resources, labour force, staff, personnel, workers, workforce

Man or mankind – humanity, humankind, human race, people

Man-made – artificial, manufactured, synthetic

Man in the street, common man – average/ordinary/typical citizen/person

Right-hand man – chief assistant

Sportsmanship – fairmess, good humour, sense of fair play

Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Guide to Inclusive Language

“We talk about Jesus Christ, but in a few places we have changed it to say ‘God’ instead of ‘he’,” Church of Sweden spokesperson Sofija Pedersen Videke told The Telegraph. “We have some prayer options that are more gender-neutral than others.”

“A wide majority of people decided on the book,” she said, adding that she had heard of no priests who objected to the new linguistic framework.

The Church of Sweden is headed by Archbishop Antje Jackelen, who was elected Sweden’s first female archbishop in 2013.

Archbishop Jackelen defended the decision, telling Sweden’s TT news agency: “Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human.”

The decision was met with some criticism.  Christer Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor at Lund University in Sweden, told Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad that the decision was “undermining the doctrine of the Trinity and the community with the other Christian churches.”

“It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden becomes known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage,” he said. The Church of Sweden has 6.1 million baptised members in a country with a population of 10 million.

The Church of England told The Telegraph that it also chooses to avoid divisive language in its services, but not with regards to God.  “When liturgy is revised we also seek to use inclusive language where appropriate when referring to people,” a spokesperson said.

“The Church of England has always used masculine language when speaking about God, for example in the words of the Lord’s Prayer – ‘our Father, who art in Heaven’ – and in referring to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and continues to do so.”

The decision by the Church of Sweden mirrors an international trend for inclusivity in major churches. Earlier this month, the Church of England published guidelines for helping children “explore the possibilities of who they might be”, including their gender identity.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: