By Stephanie Schumacher and Coleen Sharp

As mentioned and/or recommended on Theology Gals Podcast

Check out Stephanie’s article Why Your Church (and You, Believer) Should Stop Associating with MOPS International

Our Call To Discernment

Discernment: Growing Up In Christ Theology Gals Episode

  • Discerning between truth and error, right and wrong, what is true and false
  • Being discerning helps to guard us from being deceived.
  • “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Charles Spurgeon


Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach the things which are in agreement with sound doctrine [which produces men and women of good character whose lifestyle identifies them as true Christians].

1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Ephesians 4:15&16 So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes

but speaking the truth in love,]we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

Romans 16:17&18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive

1 Thessalonians 5:21 But test everything; hold fast what is good

  • What is Biblical love
    • Bible Dictionary – “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” Love for neighbor is a decision that we make to treat others with respect and concern, to put the interests and safety of our neighbors on a level with our own. It demands a practical outworking in everyday life placing a retaining wall around the roof to keep people from falling Deut 22:8
    • Love is not just accepting others in their errors
  • “What about our commands to not judge?”
    • Regarding Matthew 7 which is often misused, Christ is  not forbidding His people from issuing judgments altogether. In fact, Jesus in this same gospel orders us to discriminate between good and evil.

The Gospel

What is the Gospel? Michael Horton (video)

Gospel is a very particular word or kind of speech in the Bible; from Genesis to Revelation the gospel is God’s promise of a Son who will crush the Serpent’s head forgive the sins of His people raise them from the dead and give them everlasting life solely on the basis of His grace for the sake of Christ. Michael Horton

  • I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
    • A false gospel is serious error
    • This isn’t a secondary issue. Scripture is clear about the gospel, the church has agreed throughout church history that this is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.
  • The gospel is for Christians too
    • Church programs need a clear gospel
      • As a reminder to Christians
      • As evangelism for non Christians

The Gospel from MOPS

On an all leader call, June 22, 2016, the MOPS CEO Mandy Arioto explained the good news in the following way:

“Here’s the thing, we live amongst a generation of people of women of families who are famished physically and spiritually, families who are looking for something. But here’s the thing, people are so interested in finding hope that they have no idea what the good news is, and they haven’t found it amongst the followers of Jesus until now. We are people who are reclaiming the good news, who are walking out among the way of the one we follow, a man named Jesus, and bringing good news to hurting people. 8 million people are leaving the church every year and so we are taking serious responsibility for the fact that we need to be people who come bearing the good news, reclaiming the good news. And what is good news? Good news is friends when you are lonely, it is food when you are hungry, it is kindness with no strings attached, it is food when your baby is sick. Good news is Jesus. And it is the embarrassingly extravagant love of God.”  (Minute 7:28)

MOPS Evangelism video

5:04: Nourish yourself and go in peace.

Come alive. Coming back to life is a restoration of that which was lost. It is a filling in of the gaps and brokenness and a breathing deeply of hope and healing.

5:20: It is choosing to believe that our mistakes are forgiven our healing is imminent and that hope always wins.

Nourishing Ourselves. Nourishing ourselves is permission to acknowledge the deep hunger and nagging longings that cause our insides to feel ravenous for sustenance. It is permission from the healer himself to consume that which holds energy to sustain us. It means rest and play and good food and being with people who care for us.

5:55 It means finding ways to encounter Jesus not just in the ways we are told we are supposed to get to know him, but in ways that actually work for us.

And lastly, go in peace. Go in peace is about being a person of peace in the world. It is about being a safe place for friends or strangers the ones who are desperate or scared or feel like a walking dead person because they are longing for purpose or meaning. Where those people can find us and we can point them in the right direction. Not because we have all of the answers, but because we have met the healer who does.

And that my friends is what Mops is all about. Its an acknowledgment that we are in it together. It is a responsibility to invite others to touch the corner of Jesus’ shawl and find the hope and healing that we are only just beginning to fully understand ourselves.

The Gospel from Mandy

“When I spoke to Mandy via phone, I directly asked her about her view on sin. She was nice to me over the phone, and even offered to fly me to Denver to speak on Emmanuel’s outreach successes through MOPS, as well as our outreach strategies. But Mandy didn’t answer my question on her view of sin.  She did talk to me about next years theme, but my heart grew even more troubled by what I heard. There seemed to be deep theological differences between her theology and my understanding of biblical Christianity. Those differences may even be irreconcilable. because it seems to me through hearing Mandy’s own words, her views are entrenched. After listening to Mandy’s review regarding next year’s MOPS theme, I felt compelled to ask her again about her view of sin.  Mandy would not speak to me about sin, and it seemed to me that because I pressed for an answer, I was the problem. Our church has partnered with MOPS for over 20 years in ministering to women, and to ask the President of MOPS her view on sin seems like a question that MOPS partners should be able to ask.

  • Video where Mandy shares where she plans to take MOPS in the coming years… starting around 7 min she says that up until now people cannot find the “good news” among the followers of Jesus, but they (MOPS) will reclaim this. What is the good news? According to Mandy, the good news is “friends when you are lonely, food when you are hungry, kindness with no strings attached, food when your baby is sick, good news is Jesus, and it is the embarrassingly extravagant love of God”.
  • You are worthy before you achieve. In the first-century Jewish world, the wilderness wasn’t sanctioned, and it was a place where everyone was welcome. When Jesus heads out to the wilderness, he’s baptized by John, comes out of the water, and everyone present hears the audible voice of God saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Before Jesus does anything fantastic, before he sacrificed, earned, or achieved, he is validated. That’s not all. At the same time God affirms his pleasure with Jesus, and a dove hovers over the water. The last time we read about something like that happening was in the Genesis story where God hovers over the waters as creation is taking form. What all of this is telling us is that, with Jesus, there is a new creation, the slate is wiped clean. Jesus in his full humanity is leading us to our full humanity. Without any earning or achieving, we are beloved. This is my child in whom I am well pleased. Calm your racing mind, cease the search for the next best thing. You have always been with him, and all he has is yours.HMF
  • Mandy’s tells the story of Scripture in Starry Eyed, but no gospel

Many of us who have a spiritual frame of reference have misinterpretations about the story God tells us about our body. The story starts with the idea that we were created by a good God. This God is a Craftsman who, when he is finished creating, looks at his work and declares it good. Another part of the story is that Humanity’s earliest experiences were in a garden. A garden named Eden, which in Hebrew means Delight. The Story Goes that these first people were naked in a garden named Delight, with delicious food growing all around them. It is interesting to me that the original design for Humanity was to live with our skin exposed to the world, and unashamed of our bodies and enjoying good things that grow wild, and the place that delivered all these opportunities was called Delight.

As the story unfolds, we read that the desire for knowledge and power got the better of these first humans. They wanted insider knowledge of great and unsearchable things, but little did they know that what they would learn wasn’t life-giving but rather life taking. In their quest to know God’s mind, they learned they were naked, and they became ashamed. They were so aware of their vulnerabilities that they lost the ability to enjoy all that the light had once offered them.

Ultimately, they were banished from the garden. The curse They Carried with them as they left was that their work would become all-consuming, basic provision for their bodies would burden. The land would grow thorns and thistles that would complicate their efforts. Clearing thorns and tilling the ground would fill their days. Delight was forgotten.

Fast forward a lot of years, and a man who is God in skin gives his life in exchange for the curse of being banished from the garden. A crown of thorns is placed upon his head as a symbol that thorns no longer have to be a burden. The kingdom is being restored; delight returns. He has come that we might have life and have it to the full. The only issue is that we have yet to remember what it feels like to delight”

Questionable Teachers Promoted by Mandy


“One of my favorite books is The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by Celtic mystic John Philip Newell.” (Page 93)

“…the cross has been so strongly linked with a particular doctrine of salvation. They [talking about Christians] have either been explicitly taught or given the impression that a price needed to be paid for God’s forgiveness, and that price was the death of Jesus. The teaching is often referred to as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Although a payment needed to be made, says the doctrine, we are not worthy to make the payment ourselves, so a substitute sacrifice was needed. Jesus died on our behalf to propitiate the anger of God.

“One of the problems with this doctrine is that it runs counter to our deepest experiences of love. Who are the people who have most loved us in our lives amid our failures and betrayals? Could we imagine them ever requiring payment to forgive us? True love is free. Perhaps so much wrong has been done by this doctrine that the cross has become an irredeemable symbol for many, both within the Christian household and beyond. But I hope not. I hope it can be redeemed because, essentially, it is a symbol of the mystery at the heart of Christianity’s great gift to the world – the belief that love can reconcile all things.” (John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 107)

‘What if we had realized long ago that the important thing is not getting the world to believe what we believe, getting others to subscribe to particular beliefs about Jesus? The important thing is inviting the world to believe with Jesus, to believe in the way of love… What matters is whether they believe in love. What matters is whether, with Jesus, we are following the way of love, for this is all we need. Love is all we need.’

(John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings,Page 116)

“The great offering of Christ to humanity was not about salvation from the world. It was about salvation of the world. Jesus showed a way of transformation from the injustices and violence that dominate the world of international relations and domestic affairs.” (John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings,Page 78)


“Did Jesus Have to Die? No. He didn’t. He was killed.” (What is the Bible?,Page 241)

“God didn’t need to kill someone to be ‘happy’ with humanity. What kind of God would that be? Awful. Horrific.” (What is the Bible?,Page 245)

“That’s what the Bible is. It wasn’t written by a third party somewhere in the sky who passively and objectively tells you what the plan is. It was written by real people in real places at real times doing their best to make sense of it all.” (What is the Bible?, Page 244)

“So one of the main points of the library of books [the Bible] that some refer to as the word of God is that there are lots of words of God and you can and should listen to them all? Exactly.” (What is the Bible?, Page 267)


“The gospel for me, is Jesus’ announcement of the shape of reality, and the effect that it has is that it re-aligns you inside of the universe, not in the false-self but in the true-self.” ( Stamp 0:25)

“Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is. If this is not the pattern, what hope is there for 99.9 percent of the world? We eventually discover that the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves.” (Falling Upward,Page 60)

“As Christians do, to formally say Jesus is God is bad theology it is incorrect.” (  Time Stamp 23:27)


Mysticism: We Don’t Need You Theology Gals Episode

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Theology Gals Episode

Quotes from Have More Fun by Mandy Arioto

I hope you have someone in your life who can tell you this, but if not, hear it from me: God is proud of you. I can guess what your inner voice is saying. Well, what about this, this, and this. God surely isn’t proud of those things. I hear you, but those are part of being human, the part God understands and forgives and sees through. (Page 149)

In referencing the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, Mandy writes:  “The Jesus said, ‘Give her something to eat.’ ‘Give her something to eat.’ That happens to be my favorite verse in the whole Bible. In fact, it is my life verse.” (Page 75)

All the research presented throughout this book suggests that if we have more fun we will accomplish more, be healthier, like ourselves better, and people will want to be our friend. Not to mention that fun is an aphrodisiac, the solution for online bullying, and the answer to almost every existential question about how to live a more fulfilling life.(Page 18)

It is also OK to ask questions, to have doubts, and to like Jesus (but not like his people sometimes). (Page 150)

Have you ever thought about God as fun loving? I have a picture hanging above my desk in my office to remind me that God isn’t always angry and disappointed. The picture is of Jesus laughing. It reminds me that Jesus is the person who laughs with us, even as we squander our days looking for something that will open our minds when love and truth are already waiting for us if only we choose to accept it.

Having more fun with spirituality will show up in your life in different ways, but what I do know is that it typically takes some searching because we only see what we are looking for. It might mean showing up with other people who are looking for the same thing. For me, this sometimes means church, but not always. Jesus is obviously not contained in the church, but he can often be found hanging around in there. If you are thinking about church, but you feel angry or leery or hurt yet are somehow still drawn to a gathering of people looking for God, I think that is courageous. Also, please know that some people go to church because they believe and others go because they want to believe. Neither is more holy.

It is also OK to ask questions, to have doubts, and to like Jesus (but not like his people sometimes). We are all doing our best, and God gets it because he lived it too. It was just over two thousand years ago that Jesus was born in a barn to a teenage mom. In a rocky pasture not far from Bethlehem on a hillside speckled with sheep, an angel showed up to a bunch of shepherds, possibly sitting around a campfire and drinking wine out of a skin. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11 NASB). One of them surely spat out the wine and whispered, “Was that what I think it was?” Good news, great joy, for all people. That is JESUS.

I overheard her inviting a friend from the street to come for donuts, and she said, “I want to introduce you to my friend Mandy. You have to hear how she talks about God.” On the other hand, read some of the reviews of my latest book on Amazon and you’ll see, “Don’t read this book because of the way Mandy talks about God.” I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and it is all good because there is room in the family of God for all of us. All his love, all his forgiveness, and all the hope that one day we will understand entirely. Until then: good news, great joy, for all people. We don’t need to see eye to eye to dance hand in hand, so go out and enjoy the party you have been at the whole TIME.

Cake as Communion. This is a prac practice that I bust out occasionally when we need to be reminded of God’s goodness. It started when I was a pastor in San Diego, and now I do it once a year at staff prayer time at MOPS. The process is simple. We do the communion reading straight from Scripture, but instead of bread and wine we use cake and whatever beverage we have on hand. Sometimes it is grape juice; if we’re at my house, I might substitute champagne. I know this makes some people uncomfortable, but I don’t think it needs to. Every day around the world this very same thing happens when church families in other countries “take and eat” with Coca Cola and crackers or whatever makes sense in their cultural context. Taste and see that God is good. It creates just enough dissonance in our minds and taste buds that communion takes on a whole new meaning. The beauty of Jesus’s sacrifice at the cross is amplified in our senses, and we are reminded of what a gift it truly is. Try it and let me know what you think.

Draw Happy God. Draw the face of a gracious God. Yes, images of God are fraught with complication. Even more so if you’re not a gifted artist. But you could scribble out a smiley face that represents God’s joy.

I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you reminding them what God says to them, the rattling of bone against bone starts reverberating so forcefully Ezekiel can feel it in his chest. Suddenly, drawn by an unseen magnet, bones are pulled back to their original partners as God begins the process of restoring all the things that at first glance appeared hopeless and lifeless. Bodies are reassembled, and breath returns; the bones once again house souls, and a mighty army of people become warriors of hope. They regain their aliveness.

Miscellaneous Recommended Resources

Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International Sarah Wilkins

MOPS and Its Move Away from Biblical Christianity Sarah Wilkins

Tone Deaf Ref by Carl Trueman

Christless Christianity Michael Horton (video)

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton (book)

Quotes from Christless Christianity

Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we’ve never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. “God loves you” doesn’t stir the world’s opposition. However, start talking about God’s absolute authority, holiness, … Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably.

If we think the main mission of the church is to improve life in Adam and add a little moral strength to this fading evil age, we have not yet understood the radical condition for which Christ is such a radical solution.

Regardless of the official theology held on paper, moralistic preaching (the bane of conservatives and liberals alike) assumes that we are not really helpless sinners who need to be rescued but decent folks who need good examples,

God’s downward descent to us in grace reversed by our upward ascent in pragmatic enthusiasm, we are increasingly becoming a sheep without a Shepherd—and all in the name of mission. Instead of churching the unchurched, we are well on our way to even unchurching the churched.

He demands perfect righteousness, not good intentions.

Christ is ubiquitous in this subculture, but more as an adjective (Christian) than as a proper name. While we swim in a sea of “Christian” things, Christ is increasingly reduced to a mascot or symbol of a subculture and the industries that feed it. Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.

religious speech becomes assimilated to the pragmatic rationality of rules, steps, techniques, and programs for personal transformation and well-being.

Judging by its commercial, political, and media success, the evangelical movement seems to be booming. But is it still Christian? I am not asking that question glibly or simply to provoke a reaction. My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for “relevant” quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be.

Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (book)

Quotes from Christianity and Liberalism

Christ died”–that is history; “Christ died for our sins”–that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.

What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?

Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.

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