Archive for the ‘Rick Warren’ Category
While creating such a world sounds very good, it is not what the Bible says is going to happen. Many Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, describe a very different scenario, such as the following:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:9-14)
Prophetic Scriptures are denied or fulfilled in 70 AD (as is also the belief of preterism).The church is the new Israel (replacement theology).Armageddon is the ongoing battle between the forces of light and darkness.The Antichrist is a spirit, not an actual person.We are already in the Tribulation, but at the same time, we are in the Millennium. It doesn’t get any stranger! It’s one or the other.Rather than following traditional Bible prophecy, they follow “new revelations.”Modern-day prophets must be obeyed and not judged for their inaccuracy.They want to restore the Edenic nature even though Eden is where sin began.1
And he [Jesus] went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are. (Luke 13:22-25; emphasis added)
Sadly, for centuries at a time in too many places to count, the Christian religion has downplayed, misconstrued, or forgotten the secret message of Jesus entirely. Instead of being about the kingdom of God coming to earth, the Christian religion has too often been preoccupied with abandoning or escaping the earth and going to heaven . . . We have betrayed the message that the kingdom of God is available for all, beginning with the least and last and the lost—and have instead believed and taught that the kingdom of God is available for the elite, beginning with the correct and the clean and the powerful.3
This kind of collaboration leads to a fresh understanding of what it means to evangelize. I was taught that it meant converting people to the one true religion, namely, my own [Christianity]. Now I believe evangelism means inviting people into heart-to-heart communion and collaboration with God and neighbors in the great work of healing the earth, of building the beloved community, of seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s justice for all. Members of each tradition bring their unique gifts to the table, ready to share and receive, learn and teach, give and take, in a spirit of generosity and vulnerability. Neither my neighbors nor I are obligated or expected to convert. . . . As we work together for the common good, we are all transformed. Those who haven’t experienced this kind of transforming collaboration simply don’t know what they’re missing. . . . Through multifaith collaborations, I have come to see how the language Paul used about one body with many members (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12: 4– 5) applies not only to differing gifts among individual Christians but also to differing gifts among religions.4 (emphasis added)
There is a common cliché: if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and has feathers like a duck—it is a duck! Efforts are underway to establish the kingdom of God on Earth right now without the King. Is this what Jesus intended would happen, or are we being misled by human beings who are following the thoughts of their own imagination or worse yet the inspiration of Satan?
2. Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1: http://web.archive.org/web/20090103090514/http://bleedingpurplepodcast.blogspot.com/2006/01/brian-mclaren-interview-part-i.html; Part II: http://web.archive.org/web/20060127003305/http://bleedingpurplepodcast.blogspot.com).
3. Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), pp. 78-79.
4. Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration (New York, NY: Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016), Kindle location 2768.
Courtesy of Understand the Times
Connect the dots and draw your own conclusions (See related articles under picture)
Related Articles from Lighthouse Trails:
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I have just read the excellent booklet that you generously provided in your recent newsletter by Carl Teichrib; FREEMASONRY: A Revealing Look at the Spiritual Side.
Back in the early 1990s, my family was able to relocate to a small town in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. We had previously been members of an independent Bible church in Florida. Among our first priorities after settling in was to find a similar church that preached the Word and was focused on missions. We found a very small Christian and Missionary Alliance Church that at the time had only about 30 members with a very young pastor that had just graduated from seminary. This was a wonderful answer to prayer. The church was already starting to sponsor several missionaries, and the pastor and I began a close friendship. Soon after the pastor asked me if I would consider being an elder. I had been a deacon at the church in Florida, and having been a Christian for only 5 years at this point, I really thought I might not qualify to be an elder. After much prayer about this, I humbly accepted the position. Part of my decision was based on the certainty that the Lord had given me the gift of discernment soon after I was born again . . . (but that is a whole other story).
The building we rented for our services was very small, seating maybe 35-40. Soon we began to look for a larger building to suit our growing congregation. We found a beautiful piece of land just on the edge of town that had previously been occupied by a Jehovah’s Witness group. After praying that the Lord would cleanse the building, we started much needed work on the sanctuary and the small other building that would be for a nursery.
At this time, a man suddenly started coming to our church and put himself right away to the business of woodworking and painting. He had skills in construction that none of us possessed so his help was greatly appreciated. I soon found out that he was a Freemason. Of the 5 elders in the congregation, only I and one other (that had left masonry after becoming a Christian) knew the ramifications of this man’s intention of becoming a member of the congregation. I looked at our By-Laws and could not find anything prohibiting a member of a secret society from becoming a member. So I got busy getting together materials to discuss with the pastor and elders that dealt with Freemasonry. At the time, I had a book by John Ankerberg that I used to highlight all the reasons a Freemason could not be a true Christian (or at the very least, would be a compromising one) being that he would be serving two masters.
Since this man had asked to be a member, we elders had a meeting with him after the elders had educated themselves about the serious spiritual ramifications of his joining the membership. We gently but firmly talked to this man about the biblical reasons that this secret society could not coexist with Christianity. He claimed he went to a “Christian Lodge,” and he did not seem to understand what we were talking about. The man and his wife met with the pastor and said he was offended by what we were implying. It was his view that we were saying he was not a Christian, which we had never said in the first meeting. The next few weeks the man did not come to church. I had the church vote on a by-law that would not allow a member of a secret society to become a member of the church. Several weeks later the man called the pastor and told him that he owned a parcel of land adjoining our small plot of land. He said he would sell it to us if only he could become a member of the church and that if the elders and especially me would apologize to him and his wife based on Matthew 18:15 where a brother sins against another brother!
Much to my surprise (and horror), the pastor (and my friend) wanted me to ignore the new by-law and personally apologize to this man solely for the reason of obtaining this parcel of land from him that he was offering at a great discount!
This was a very agonizing time for me and my wife. We earnestly prayed about what to do. I could not in good faith apologize to this man when I had only tried to show him the errors of his way using Scripture and resources to back up what I was saying. I felt betrayed by the pastor. Some of the elders (except for one) did not even know what all the fuss was about! For these reasons, we reluctantly left that church that we had so dearly come to love. My wife had started a Pioneer Club for the children and I had taught adult Sunday school there.
Soon afterwards, a CMA higher up came and discussed church growth, and the man in question sold the parcel to the church.
This is an example of how Satan ruins a good thing when discernment is nearly absent from a local congregation.
By the way, the other elder that was a mason before he became saved also left that CMA church soon after I did based on his convictions that very few of the elders and pastor had any discernment and also because of the new blueprints that the CMA leader had come up with for church growth. Basically, that plan was to be a seeker-friendly church that added members that wanted to join whomever they may be (saved or unsaved).
After we left the CMA church, we looked for a new church and settled on the big First Baptist church in town (Southern Baptist). My youngest son accepted Christ as his Savior there and was baptized, and we were happy they had a nice youth group. About two years later, the youth pastor left, and they replaced him with a Rick Warren fan. Several of the parents wanted to have a meeting with him and the deacons to discuss our concerns. It was not only the fact that all he talked about was Rick Warren, but my son said that unlike with the previous youth pastor, this young man was teaching them things that had nothing to do about the Bible. My son showed me his notes: it was all man’s wisdom and philosophies that he was espousing. The meeting was very tense. The youth pastor again accused us of not coming to him in private first and citing . . . you guessed it: Matthew 18 again! The deacons were all Masons, and they were not sympathetic to our concerns.
Before moving back to Florida, we started up a small congregation of about 12 families; most of them the parents of the youth group at the big Baptist church. About this same time, I was reading a book by a former Mason-turned-Christian that mentioned that a tactic that the local lodges used was infiltrating the local churches and reporting back to their lodge on the church’s activities. That really creeped me out.
A believer in Florida
Letter to the Editor from an Assemblies of God Pastor: How God Sent Ray Yungen Who “Radically Altered the Path of Our Ministry”
LTRP Note: We are posting this, not just as a tribute to Ray but even more so to help Christian pastors and leaders consider taking a closer look at how they are operating their ministries and churches and ask themselves if they are truly preaching “Christ crucified” or are they following after programs made by men.
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I don’t remember the exact date, but sometime in early 2011, we were watching “Frances and Friends” on TV over the Son Life Broadcasting network. We weren’t fans of the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and taking the time to watch one of their programs was not something that was planned on our part. But, God had a plan. Anyhow, as we tuned in to that program, the guest speaker being interviewed by Frances Swaggart over the telephone was Warren Smith. We had never heard of this man but what caught our attention was his comments about Rick Warren and the “Purpose Drive Church” ministry model. In as much as we pastor an Assemblies of God church, and, at that time, were avid disciples or Rick Warren, I stopped to listen to what Warren was saying about Rick Warren. Rick Warren was (and still is) promoted heavily by the Assemblies of God as the “new” ministry model to follow. But what Warren Smith had to say about the Purpose Driven Church and the Purpose Drive Life stopped me dead in my tracks. When that program was over, my wife and I sat there stunned. We had been following Rick Warren’s ministry for approximately 13 years and never had any inclination that it was NOT what we should be doing in our ministry.
I sent an e-mail to Warren Smith that day (or the next) telling him how very much we had appreciated his courage and his willingness to come on national TV and denounce the Purpose Driven Church model. What we learned that day through Warren was shocking, but we felt the peace of God as to what we were learning. In that e-mail I mentioned to Warren that we were now re-examining our promoting the PDC model. Bro. Warren called me on the phone the day after he received my e-mail which was quite a shock to me that he would take the time to do that. But Warren asked me if I would permit him to put me in contact with a man he considered a mentor and who lived in Salem, Oregon which is about 3 hours away. He said that his name was Ray Yungen. I said that would be fine, and he gave me Ray’s phone number.
Still reeling from what I had just learned from Warren about Rick Warren, I decided not to call Ray. But not making that phone call to Ray right away kept nagging at me. I truly believe that this “nagging feeling” was actually the Holy Spirit exhorting me to call him. So, after about two weeks of putting it off, I relented and called Ray. When Ray answered his phone and I told him my name, he said immediately, “Well, it’s about time. I didn’t think you were going to call.” After a few moments of talking to Ray, he asked if he could come to our town and visit with me and share some information he believed would be very helpful to our ministry.
Well, Ray arrived, and he, my wife, and myself sat down, and Ray began to talk about such things as contemplative spirituality, the New Age movement in the church, soaking prayer, centering prayer, and all manner of related things that were taking place in the church world and being endorsed by noted leaders in Christianity. These were things we had never heard about from anyone at anytime. After listening to Ray for 5 ½ hours, my wife and I looked at each other with stunned amazement at what this man had just told us. He talked to us quietly and supported his claims thoroughly. I looked at Ray and said, “Ray, listening to everything you just said is a little bit like trying to get a drink of water out of fire hydrant.” Following that conversation, we walked back to my church office with Ray still talking, and when he walked into my office, he immediately perused my library. He asked my permission to take a closer look, and he began to pull out select books that I had. One by one, Ray pointed out individuals who were involved in what he had just discussed with my wife and I. People like, Tony Campolo, Richard Foster, Leonard Sweet, Joyce Meyer, and, of course, Rick Warren and others.
One item Ray spent some time looking at was something called “We Build People” which was a “discipleship” program put together by the General Council of the Assemblies of God under the direction of Rick Warren and his staff from Saddleback. The AG had asked Mr. Warren to come back to the Springfield, MO offices and help them develop this program but with a Pentecostal slant. The end result was “We Build People.” Ray pointed out that this program was endorsed by people like Richard Foster, et al.
With all of the above being said, my wife and I know that the Lord used Warren Smith to put us in contact with this wonderfully quiet, gentle, and godly man by the name of Ray Yungen who was guided by the Holy Spirit to completely and radically alter the path of our ministry and begin to preach Christ and Him crucified. Over the few years that we have known Ray, we have been continually fed through his research and his writings which have been a continual source of comfort and enlightenment.
If anyone asks me if I could name two people who have impacted life and ministry in a dramatic way, there is no doubt as to who those two would be – Ray Yungen and Warren Smith. Thank the Lord for their faithfulness.
Our hearts are deeply saddened with the passing of Ray, and we will be forever grateful for his ministry which, in our case, was life changing. Our ministry will never be the same. We look forward to the day when we will see him once again and rejoice with Him in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In His Service,
Larry and Carol
By Roger Oakland
Understand the Times, International
I was reminded recently of a commentary I had written a number of years ago that reverberated around the world and throughout the Calvary Chapel movement. You can find it on our Understand The Times website. A discussion about that article was posted at a website frequented by many Calvary pastors called Phoenix Preacher. The purpose for posting this was to show that the credibility of my article was bogus as well as to pit Rick Warren’s apologetics bulldog . . . against Understand The Times and create a controversy. To read this entire commentary, click here.
Editor’s Introduction Note: It is very fitting that our 100th Booklet is about emerging-church leader Leonard Sweet. Many of you may not know who he is or know very little about him, but his influence in the church has been significant. He is a prolific author who has been writing popular books since the 1990s, has worked closely with many Christian leaders such as Rick Warren, and has been very involved in teaching college-age evangelical students.
Sweet is currently organizing and co-hosting an event in Germany taking place in October called Luther 2017. Sweet has brought on board with him at the event Christian figures including Dr. George Wood, head of the Assemblies of God denomination, Dr. Gustavo Crocker, one of the General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, Dr. Jo Anne Lyons, head of the Wesleyan denomination, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and several other major Christian leaders from around the world.
Important to note is Sweet’s newest book, Jesus Speaks, published by the same publisher (Thomas Nelson) as Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and released this past summer. Jesus Speaks is touted by Sweet and co-author Frank Viola as “the practical sequel” to Jesus Calling that “gives you the practical steps to have your own ‘Jesus Calling’ experience.” As Warren B. Smith has documented in his book “Another Jesus” Calling, the Jesus in Jesus Calling is a false Christ.
And so the great deception happening in the church today continues. Popular proclaiming Christians introducing believers and unbelievers alike to false Christs and a “more magnificent way of seeing Christ” but, sadly, a way that does not point people to the true Jesus Christ at all. Once you read this booklet below, you will understand the direction Leonard Sweet is taking the church and why this cannot be ignored.
NEW BOOKLET: Leonard Sweet—A More Magnificent Way of Seeing Christ? by Warren B. Smith is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Leonard Sweet—A More Magnificent Way of Seeing Christ?, click here.
Leonard Sweet—A More Magnificent Way of Seeing Christ?
To survive in postmodern culture, one has to learn to speak out of both sides of the mouth.1
Who is Leonard Sweet?
Leonard Sweet is an ordained Methodist minister who is presently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He is also a visiting distinguished professor at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon. On his various websites, he is described as a “scholar of American culture” who has authored over 60 books and 200 articles and has published over 1500 sermons. A “Phi Beta Kappa graduate,” he is a “frequent speaker at national and international conferences, state conventions, pastor’s schools, retreats” and “serves as a consultant to many of America’s denominational leaders and agencies.” Descriptive terms such as “distinguished,” “most influential,” “widely quoted,” “highly sought after,” and “the Picasso of Preaching” give visitors to his website the distinct impression that this is a man they should definitely pay attention to. And many people are doing just that.
Day-to-day believers may or may not be familiar with Leonard Sweet, but many in Christian leadership are very familiar with this self-described “semiotician.” According to his website, a semiotician is someone who “sees things the rest of us do not see and dreams possibilities that are beyond most of our imagining.” And as a “cultural futurist” and “Christ follower,” he seems to be very comfortable assuming the role of a postmodern prophet who provides hip observations of what is and what will be. His mission is to help the church become more culturally relevant in the 21st century. However, as he attempts to walk the narrow line between the Gospel and the world, he frequently walks over that line into the false teachings of the New Age/New Spirituality. When he does, legitimate questions need to be raised about what he is doing.
In June 2010, Sweet became the object of a swirling controversy, and his name suddenly disappeared from the list of scheduled speakers at a National Worship Conference taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The controversy centered around the New Age implications of many of the quotes and teachings found in his 1991 book Quantum Spirituality: A Post Modern Apologetic. Prior to the conference, a number of people were starting to ask pertinent questions about Sweet and what he was teaching. In my 2009 book A “Wonderful” Deception, I wrote three chapters on Leonard Sweet and the obvious New Age implications of what he was teaching. In the first chapter on Sweet, I described some of my initial impressions regarding this man, and in particular, his book Quantum Spirituality:
Highly intellectual and well-read, Leonard Sweet almost dares you to keep up with him as he charges through the spiritual marketplace. Operating at lightning speed and quoting from countless books and articles, he will impress many readers with his quick wit and spiritual insights. However, as he treacherously dives into New Age waters and challenges his readers to go there with him, serious problems arise within his “postmodern apologetic.”
In reading Quantum Spirituality, I recalled the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus warned that you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Leonard Sweet may be a professing evangelical Christian, but he also simultaneously praises New Age authors and their teachings.2
Sweet’s “Response” to Critics
Keenly aware of the controversy he has created, Sweet has a statement prominently posted on his present home website titled—“A Response to Recent Misunderstandings.” While his attempt to explain himself might satisfy the uninformed reader, his “Response” does not address the specifics of what he has written and is actually teaching. His simplistic denunciation of the New Age is unconvincing. His statement that the “New Age rhymes with sewage” and his encouraging the use of a “daily ritual of starting the day by standing in front of a mirror and saying: “God is God and I am not” do not speak to the fact that he has never even addressed, much less renounced, the specific New Age teachings that he was otherwise appearing to deny and disparage. And his stating “back when the New Age was a movement” completely misses the fact that the New Age movement never went away. Those of us who came out of New Age teachings and have been observing the New Age over the past several decades know that contrary to Sweet’s claims, the New Age movement has actually grown exponentially and is now mainstream and an inherent part of our culture. Due to its continued wide-spread growth and influence, the New Age threat to the church (and the world) is larger than ever before. But now it is just hiding in plain sight behind the facade of other names like “New Spirituality,” “New Worldview,” or in Sweet’s case—the “New Light” teachings of a “Quantum Spirituality.” But by any other name a rose is still a rose and the New Age is still the New Age.
Because Sweet’s “A Response to Recent Misunderstandings” left so many unanswered questions and because of his continued influence in the church, it seems imperative that thoughtful Christians take a deeper look at what Leonard Sweet is really teaching. For starters, here are five immediate concerns to consider.
FIVE IMMEDIATE CONCERNS
1) Leonard Sweet teaches the New Age doctrine of “Immanence” that would have the church believe God is “in” everyone and everything
In her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ, New Age matriarch Alice Bailey and her spirit guide Djwhal Khul describe how the path to their New Age God will be based on an “immanent” God that is “within every form of life”:
. . . a fresh orientation to divinity and to the acceptance of the fact of God Transcendent and of God Immanent within every form of life. These are the foundational truths upon which the world religion of the future will rest.3 (emphasis added)
Likewise, in his 1980 book, The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom, New Age channeler Benjamin Creme, states that the New World Religion will be based on the proposition that “Christ” is “immanent”—“in man and all creation”:
But eventually a new world religion will be inaugurated which will be a fusion and synthesis of the approach of the East and the approach of the West. The Christ will bring together, not simply Christianity and Buddhism, but the concept of God transcendent—outside of His creation—and also the concept of God immanent in all creation—in man and all creation.4 (emphasis added)
In Leonard Sweet’s 1999 book SoulTsunami—with its front cover endorsement by Rick Warren—Sweet introduces this same New Age idea of God not only being transcendent but also immanent. He writes:
To survive in postmodern culture, one has to learn to speak out of both sides of the mouth. It should not be hard, since Christianity has always insisted on having things both ways. Isn’t it based on the impossible possibility of Jesus being “beyond us, yet ourselves” (poet Wallace Stevens)? Biblical theological is not circular with a fixed center, but elliptical, revolving around the double foci of God’s immanence and God’s transcendence.5 (emphasis added)
Sweet clearly spells out what he means by “immanence” in his 1991 book Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic. As a self-described “radical,” he presents his “radical doctrine” that God is immanently embodied “in” His creation. He writes:
Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. . . . This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation. . . . But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan- or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian.6 (emphasis added)
But Sweet’s “radical” panentheistic doctrine is a key New Age teaching—as is so much of what he wrote in Quantum Spirituality. In his “A Response to Recent Misunderstandings,” Sweet tries to dispel questions about Quantum Spirituality by saying, “Would I write the same book today? No. Would I say the same things differently? Yes. I started working on the book in my late 20s. I hope I’m older and wiser now.” But when it comes to the New Age implications of what he is teaching, he is not any wiser in regard to his previously stated New Age doctrine. In several subsequent books, Sweet reintroduces his New Age doctrine of immanence—that God is immanently embodied “in” His creation. For example, in his 1999 book Soul Tsunami, Sweet writes:
Postmodern evangelism is first of all telling people how special they are, how much God loves them, how unique each and every one of them is. The fourth-century theologian Athanasius said in one of his letters that God became one of us “that he might deify us in Himself.” Similarly, elsewhere he wrote that Christ “was made man that we might be made God.”7
In Sweet’s 2010 book Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There, he expresses in different words what he wrote in Quantum Spirituality about the “embodiment of God in the very substance of creation”:
An incarnational God means that God-stuff is found in the matter of the universe.8
In this same book he also wrote, “Nudgers help people discover their inner Jesus.”9 But God is not “in” everyone and everything. Jesus is not “in” everyone and everything. Sweet may seem to denounce the New Age, but what he is teaching is New Age. This is dangerous and unbiblical leaven. The apostle Paul lamented that it only took “a little leaven” to lure the Galatians away from the Gospel they once knew so well.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Galatians 5:7-9)
God states in the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The New Age “God” who is “in” everyone and everything is another “God” and therefore a false God. Contrary to Leonard Sweet’s teaching in Quantum Spirituality, God is not embodied in His creation. Contrary to his teaching in Nudge, “God-stuff” is not found in the matter of the universe, and everyone does not have an “inner Jesus.” Scripture is very clear. Man is not God because God is not “in” everyone and everything. In Jeremiah 16:20, God warned: “Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?” In Matthew 23:12, Jesus warned, “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” For further scriptural references on why God is not “in” everyone and everything and how this false teaching has entered both the world and the church, see my booklet Be Still and Know that You Are Not God.
2) Leonard Sweet describes the “Father” of the New Age Movement” as “Twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice”
Sweet describes heretical Jesuit Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—the “Father of the New Age Movement—as “Twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice.”10 In her best-selling New Age classic, The Aquarian Conspiracy, author Marilyn Ferguson describes Teilhard de Chardin as “the individual most often named as a profound influence by the Aquarian Conspirators who responded to a survey.”11 He is also the most frequently referenced New Age leader in her book. The Teilhard quote “This soul can only be a conspiracy of individuals” is found on the very first page of her book and inspired her to title her book The Aquarian Conspiracy. Ferguson wrote that “Teilhard prophesied the phenomenon central to this book: a conspiracy of men and women whose new perspective would trigger a critical contagion of change.”12
Evident in his posted “Response,” Sweet appears to be baffled by everyone’s concern about some of the things he is writing. He seems to take any criticism as a personal attack. But this criticism, if you will, is not about him personally, it is about what he is teaching. Jesus didn’t say “Get behind me Satan” to Peter because he thought Peter was Satan. He said “Get behind me Satan” because of what Peter was saying. And because Sweet describes the “Father of the New Age movement” as “Twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice,” I believe the Lord would tell Leonard Sweet the same thing today. This should become especially evident when you read the following unbiblical statements made by Teilhard de Chardin in his book Christianity and Evolution:
What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheistic aspect of Christianity.13 (emphasis added)
The cross still stands . . . But this is on one condition, and one only, that it expand itself to the dimensions of a New Age, and cease to present itself to us as primarily (or even exclusively) the sign of a victory over sin.14
I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe.15
I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.16
[I]f a Christ is to be completely acceptable as an object of worship, he must be presented as the saviour of the idea and reality of evolution.17
A general convergence of religions upon a universal Christ who fundamentally satisfies them all: that seems to me the only possible conversion of the world, and the only form in which a religion of the future can be conceived.18
Sweet’s affection for Teilhard de Chardin surfaced again in his 1999 book Aqua Church. After quoting a strong Bible-based stanza from the hymn “Jesus Savior Pilot Me,” Sweet follows it with a very revealing quote from Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard stated that those who “see” Christ as he does understand Christ in “a much more magnificent way” than all those who went before him:
Christ is in the Church in the same way as the sun is before our eyes. We see the same sun as our fathers saw, and yet we understand it in a much more magnificent way.19
Really? Teilhard and his followers understand Christ in a much more magnificent way than their “fathers”? More than all the martyrs? More than the original disciples? This seems to indicate that Teilhard and Sweet and their “semiotic” emergent postmodern “Christ followers” are “seeing” something about Christ that the rest of the church does not see. Would Sweet have the church believe that Chardin’s seemingly updated New Age “Christ” is the real Christ? Is the “semiotic” Sweet trying to show us that if we adopt the New Age teachings of Teilhard, we, too, will “see” Christ in a “much more magnificent way” than the Christians who came before us? Sadly, it would seem that this is so.
Sweet seems to believe that with new understandings from quantum physics, a New Age/New Gospel/New Spirituality/Quantum Spirituality would enable Christians to see Christ in a much deeper and “more magnificent way.” The church would finally understand that the science of quantum physics proves that God is an energy force that interpenetrates and embodies His creation. Therefore, we are all “connected” because we are all “God” because God is “in” everyone and everything. Sweet argues that Christians of the past weren’t ready to deal with things like quantum physics, quantum wavelengths, and the New Age implications of a Quantum Spirituality that would totally transform their faith and challenge everything they thought they knew about being a Christian. In his 2016 book Jesus Speaks, Leonard Sweet writes:
The Holy Spirit brings Jesus’ voice to life through history, theology, science, and social experience. Jesus told the disciples, “I have much more to say to you” (John 16:12). In other words, Jesus was saying, “You can’t handle everything I have to say to you right now. Some of my truth has a wavelength, and it needs time, maybe even centuries, to play itself out.20
But this implies that God’s Word is incomplete and insufficient and therefore in need of new revelation. This is simply not true. Besides, when Jesus said “I have much more to say to you, He was talking to His disciples—not to the church today. It is also important to notice how Sweet conveniently squeezed “wavelength” into his interpretation of Jesus’ words to set up his Quantum Spirituality. But Jesus wasn’t withholding spiritual insights that would have to be delivered to His people two thousand years later. This kind of false teaching is an inherent part of the New Age deception. The fact is Jesus has already given us everything we need to know in His Holy Bible.
Jesus warned of false prophets who would come in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). And there would be those who honor Him with their lips, but their hearts would be far from Him (Matthew 15:8). He also warned of those who serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Psalm 144:11 warns of vain men who deceive with the “right hand of falsehood.” In Psalm 12:2, David warned of those who speak with a “double heart.” In James 1:8, James taught that “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. In 1 Timothy 3:8, Paul referred to these same men as “double-tongued.” For Leonard Sweet to exalt the “Father of the New age movement”—Teilhard de Chardin—and suggest that Teilhard’s way of seeing Christ is a “much more magnificent way” than our forefathers is to fall prey to our Adversary’s deceptive devices. One thing is for sure: The New Age movement hasn’t gone away—it has entered the church through men like Teilhard de Chardin and those like Sweet who exalt him as “Twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice.”
(3) Leonard Sweet Praises New Age leaders as his “Heroes” and “Role Models”
While some Leonard Sweet defenders argue that his postmodern “New Light” apologetic flies right over the heads of “Old Light” “fundamentalist” types, the facts tell a different story. But what one learns in reading Quantum Spirituality is that Sweet wants to transform biblical Christianity into a Quantum Spirituality that is, in reality, a New Age/New Spirituality. Without any apology, Sweet writes that he is part of a “New Light” movement, and he describes those he especially admires as “New Light leaders.” But many of Sweet’s “New Light leaders” are New Age leaders who are in the process of overturning biblical Christianity through obliging New Age sympathizers like Leonard Sweet.
Sweet’s New Age “role models and heroes”
In the acknowledgments section of Quantum Spirituality, Leonard Sweet expresses his deep gratitude and admiration to various “New Light leaders” whom he openly praises as “the most creative religious leaders in America today.” But many of these “New Light leaders” are New Age leaders. Included in this group are a number of men I was very familiar with from my years in the New Age—among them are Willis Harman, Matthew Fox, and M. Scott Peck. Sweet describes these three men—along with numerous other New Age figures cited—as “extraordinary” and “great” New Light leaders. He goes so far as to say that they are his “personal role models” and “heroes” of “the true nature of the postmodern apologetic.” Sweet writes:
They are my personal role models (in an earlier day one could get away with “heroes”) of the true nature of the postmodern apologetic. More than anyone else, they have been my teachers on how to translate, without compromising content, the gospel into the indigenous context of the postmodern vernacular.21
But many of the men and women Leonard Sweet cited have compromised the “content” of the Gospel by translating it into the “postmodern vernacular” of a New Age/New Spirituality. For example, Willis Harman, Matthew Fox, and M. Scott Peck have all played leading roles in the initial establishment and popularization of today’s New Age/New Spirituality movement. But rather than commending these New Age/New Light leaders, a self-professing Christian leader like Sweet should be warning the church about them. A brief look at these three “New Light” leaders and their teachings will make this very clear.
Willis Harman (1918-1997)
Willis Harman is listed as one of the most influential Aquarian/New Age conspirators in Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy. Harman was a social scientist/futurist with the Stanford Research Institute and one of the chief architects of New Age thinking. He wrote the book Global Mind Change:The New Age Revolution in the Way We Think. A review by The San Francisco Chronicle on the front cover of the book reads: “There never has been a more lucid interpretation of New Age consciousness and what it promises for the future than the works of Willis Harman.”22
Matthew Fox (1940- )
Another one of Sweet’s self-described “role models” and “heroes” is Matthew Fox, a former Catholic priest who was dismissed from the Catholic church for openly professing heretical New Age teachings—teachings that include those of his revered mentor, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Fox, like Teilhard, teaches that all of creation is the “Cosmic Christ”—therefore the Cosmic Christ is “in” everyone and everything. In his book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Fox writes: “Divinity is found in all creatures.”23 and “We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, persons of beauty and of grace. We are all Cosmic Christs, ‘other Christs.’ But what good is this if we don’t know it.”24 Leonard Sweet actually credits Fox in a footnote in Quantum Spirituality for inspiring Sweet’s own description of the “cosmic body of Christ” and actually refers readers of Quantum Spirituality to Fox’s New Age book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.25
M. Scott Peck (1936-2005)
M. Scott Peck, the late psychiatrist and best-selling author of The Road Less Traveled, is another one of the “role models” and “heroes” that Leonard Sweet cites in his book Quantum Spirituality. The Road Less Traveled was on the New York Times best-seller list for over ten years. In a subsection of his book titled “The Evolution of Consciousness,” Peck describes God as being “intimately associated with us—so intimately that He is part of us.”26 He also writes:
If you want to know the closest place to look for grace, it is within yourself. If you desire wisdom greater than your own, you can find it inside you . . . .To put it plainly, our unconscious is God. God within us. We were part of God all the time.27
When Matthew Fox’s The Coming of the Cosmic Christ was published in 1988, the lead endorsement on the back of Fox’s book was written by M. Scott Peck. Peck and Fox were obviously in New Age agreement. Peck, like Fox and Sweet, describes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in glowing terms. He describes Teilhard as “[p]erhaps the greatest prophet” of the “mystical,” evolutionary leap that will take mankind toward “global consciousness” and “world community.”28 And it is this mystical New Age Christ of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Willis Harman, Matthew Fox, M. Scott Peck, and Leonard Sweet that challenges biblical Christianity today.
4) Leonard Sweet thanks New Age Leader David Spangler for helping him develop his Quantum Spirituality’s “new cell understanding of new light leadership”
If we want to possess a magic crystal for our New Age work, we need look no further than our own bodies and the cells that make them up.29—David Spangler, 1991
I am grateful to David Spangler for his help in formulating this “new cell” understanding of New Light leadership.30—Leonard Sweet, 1991
In his “A Response to Recent Misunderstandings,” Leonard Sweet states: “Because I quote someone does not mean I agree with everything that person ever wrote.” He goes on to say that “Some of the quotes I chose were meant to provide contrasting positions to my argument, some to buttress my argument, some even to mock my argument. The key consideration to whether I quoted someone was not ‘Do I agree with them?’ but ‘Does this quote energize the conversation?’ ‘Guilt by association’ is intellectually disreputable and injurious to the whole body of Christ.” But there is a big difference between “guilt by association” and “guilt by promotion.” Leonard Sweet is praising, thanking, and glorifying many of these New Age leaders—hardly guilt by association, especially when Sweet writes:
I believe these are among the most creative religious leaders in America today. These are the ones carving out new channels for new ideas to flow. In a way this book was written to guide myself through their channels and chart their progress. The book’s best ideas come from them.31
Ironically, one of the “channels” guiding him was an actual New Age channeler—David Spangler. A pioneering spokesperson for the New Age, Spangler has written numerous books over the years. His book The Revelation: The Birth of the New Age is a compilation of channeled transmissions that he received from his disembodied spirit-guide “John.” At one point in the book, Spangler documents what “John” prophesied about “the energies of the cosmic Christ” and “Oneness”:
As the energies of the Cosmic Christ become increasingly manifest within the etheric life of Earth, many individuals will begin to respond with the realization that the Christ dwells within them. They will feel his presence moving within and through them and will begin to awaken to their heritage of Christhood and Oneness with God, the Beloved.32
In a postmodern-day consultation that bears more than a casual resemblance to King Saul’s consult with the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28), Leonard Sweet acknowledges in Quantum Spirituality that he was privately corresponding with New Age channeler David Spangler. Sweet even thanks Spangler for assisting him in forming his “new cell understanding” of “New Light leadership.”33 But as believers we are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Rather than thanking them, we are to reprove and expose them (Ephesians 5:11).
(5) Misapplication of Quantum Physics: Trying to Draw Spiritual Truth From Physical Theory
Leonard Sweet—just like New Age leaders—tries to use Quantum Physics to prove that God indwells his creation.
The coming together of the new biology and the new physics is providing the basic metaphors for this new global civilization that esteems and encourages whole-brain experiences, full-life expectations, personalized expressions, and a globalized consciousness.34—Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami
When we experience such a quantum of transformation, we may simultaneously feel that the whole of the New Age is happening right now, that we are on the verge of overnight transformation—the fabled quantum leap into a new state of being.35—David Spangler, Reimagination of the World
We have the epitome of a great science . . . quantum physics . . . Everyone is God.36—New Age Channeler J.Z. Knight, What the Bleep Do We Know
In his book The Tao of Physics: An Explanation of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, New Age physicist Fritjof Capra describes the union of mysticism and the new physics. He wrote “this kind of new spirituality is now being developed by many groups and movements, both within and outside the churches.”37 As an example of how this “new spirituality” is moving into the church, he actually cites one of Leonard Sweet’s “role models” and “heroes”—Matthew Fox.38
When Sweet refers to the new biology and the new physics as metaphors, he stretches these “metaphors” to the position of being actual fact. From his understanding of quantum physics, he asserts that all things are composed of energy and that this quantum energy must be God, hence God is embodied in all things. Yet, this metaphor falls on its face when we learn from Paul’s writings that God and creation are two separate things as is illustrated in chapter one of Romans: “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Paul further exposes the error of spiritualizing physical creation showing that all things are not God, nor are they even spiritual. As he points out, the “earthy” is only temporary and will be done away with:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption . . . There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. . . . As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. . . . Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:42, 44, 48, 50)
Leonard Sweet and Rick Warren’s “New Spirituality”
In their 1995 joint presentation The Tides of Change, Leonard Sweet and Rick Warren had a quantum conversation as they discussed “waves,” “quantum metaphors,” “revival,” and what they were calling—even back then—a “New Spirituality.” Sweet told Warren:
Yeah, this is a wave period. I really love that metaphor of the wave and the wavelength. First of all, it is a quantum metaphor. It brings us out of the Newtonian world into this new science.39
Quantum waves, quantum wavelengths, quantum metaphors—all leading to a universal Quantum “God” and the Quantum New Age “Christ” of a New Spirituality, a New Worldview, and ultimately a New World Religion—a New World Religion that will be based on New Age teachings that have been labeled scientific but are, in reality, “science falsely so called”:
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:19-21)
Teilhard de Chardin, Leonard Sweet, and an ever-growing band of New Age sympathizers would have us believe that all those who preceded us in the faith were unable to “see” the big picture, because, after all, they didn’t have access to all the new scientific discoveries that we have today—scientific information that would have helped them gain the new spiritual understandings that Leonard Sweet claims to have acquired.
In that vein, Leonard Sweet, Rick Warren, and other Christian leaders are now teaching that God is in the process of bringing a new “Reformation”40 and a “great spiritual awakening” to the church. Sweet writes: “God is birthing the greatest spiritual awakening in the history of the church.”41 Yet this new reformation and great awakening Sweet heralds, is falsely founded on his hybridized New Age Christianity with its “radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation.”42 Ironically, while Sweet—as previously mentioned—encourages “a daily ritual” of standing in front of a mirror affirming “God is God and I am not,” he at the same time tells people that, as a part of creation, God is embodied in them. He also encourages people to be “nudgers.” He says “nudgers are not smudgers of the divine in people.”43 “Nudgers help people discover their “inner Jesus.”44
When the true Christ was asked what will be the sign of his coming and the end of the world, He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.”(Matthew 24:4)—that many false prophets would arise and deceive many (Matthew 24:11). He specifically warned us to beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing. He said we would know them by their fruits.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16)
We must exhort one another daily. We must continue to preach the Word and not fall prey to those who would diminish the Word with their worldly wisdom, clever stories, metaphors, and false teachings. The Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ always have been and always will be sufficient for all our needs.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering 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. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Regarding Leonard Sweet’s “radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation,” Jesus warns:
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 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.45 (Matthew 15: 7-9)
To order copies of Leonard Sweet—A More Magnificent Way of Seeing Christ?, click here.
1. Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium Culture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), p. 28.
2. Warren B. Smith, A “Wonderful” Deception: The Further New Age Implications of the Emerging Purpose Driven Movement (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2009), p. 106.
3. Alice A, Bailey, The Reappearance of the Christ (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing Company, Lucis Press, Ltd., 1948), 1996, p. 150.
4. Benjamin Creme, The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (London, England; The Tara Press, 1980), p. 88.
5. Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, op. cit., p. 28.
6. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints for SpiritVenture Ministries, Inc., 1991, 1994), p. 125.
7. Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, op. cit., p. 304.
8. Leonard Sweet, Nudge:Awakening Each Other to the God Who Is Already There (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), p. 157.
9. Ibid., p. 40.
10. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. 106.
11. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Tarcher, Inc., 1980), p. 50.
12. Ibid., p. 25.
13. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanivich, Inc., 1971), p. 56.
14. Ibid,. pp. 219-220.
15. Ibid,. p. 128.
16. Ibid,. p. 95.
17. Ibid,. p. 78.
18. Ibid,. p. 130.
19. Leonard Sweet, Aqua Church: Essential Leadership Arts for Piloting Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, Inc., 1999), p. 39.
20. Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus Speaks: Learning to Recognize & Respond to the Lord’s Voice (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2016), p. 85.
21. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. viii.
22. Willis Harman, Global Mind Change: The New Age Revolution in the Way We Think (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1988), front cover.
23. Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988), p. 154.
24. Ibid., p. 137.
25. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op cit., pp. 124, 324.
26. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1978), p. 281.
28. M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988), pp. 205-206.
29. David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson, Reimagination of the World: A Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Company Publishing, 1991), p. 62.
30. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. 312.
31. Ibid., p. ix.
32. David Spangler, The Revelation: Birth of A New Age (Elgin, IL: Lorian Press, 1976), p. 177.
33. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. 312.
34. Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, op. cit., p. 121.
35. David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson, Reimagination of the World, op. cit., p. 126.
36. What the Bleep Do We Know (DVD) (20th Century Fox, 2004, http://www.whatthebleep.com), transcribed by author.
37. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Explanation of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1999), p. 341.
39. The Tides of Change (A 1995 audio presentation with Leonard Sweet and Rick Warren that was part of an ongoing series called “Choice Voices for Christian Leadership,” distributed by Abington Press). On file with publisher.
40. Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, op. cit., p. 17.
41. Ibid., p. 34.
42. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. 125.
43. Leonard Sweet, Nudge, op. cit., p. 31.
44. Ibid., p. 40.
45. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p 125.
To order copies of Leonard Sweet—A More Magnificent Way of Seeing Christ?, click here.
To Lighthouse Trails:
Our Pastor has started a series based on a book “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self Discovery” by David G. Benner. What can you tell me about this book and the author? What our pastor has read from this book is very strange because in the first few pages there is no mention of the Bible. Can you help me because I think this book is a farce.
David Benner is one of the major heavy weights in contemplative spirituality. First of all, this particular book of his is promoted and endorsed by some of the most prolific contemplative mystics out there today, including the Catholic interspiritualist priest Richard Rohr (a modern day Thomas Merton) and Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Handbook on Spiritual Disciplines). In addition to the endorsements, the foreword is written by Basil Pennington. Ray Yungen discusses Pennington in his book A Time of Departing. Yungen explains:
In the book Finding Grace at the Center, written by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington (both Catholic monks), the following advice is given: “We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and capture it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible … Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices …” Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington have taken their Christianity and blended it with Eastern mysticism through a contemplative method they call centering prayer … Keating and Pennington have both authored a number of influential books on contemplative prayer thus advancing this movement greatly. Pennington essentially wrote a treatise on the subject called Centering Prayer while Keating has written the popular and influential classic, Open Mind, Open Heart, and both are major evangelists for contemplative prayer. (p. 64)
The following two quotes by Pennington show his panentheistic beliefs (God is in all):
It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced. ( Centered Living, p. 192)
The Spirit enlightened him [Merton] in the true synthesis [unity] of all and in the harmony of that huge chorus of living beings. In the midst of it he lived out a vision of a new world, where all divisions have fallen away and the divine goodness is perceived and enjoyed as present in all and through all. (Thomas Merton, My Brother, pp. 199-200.)
Regarding the specific book by Benner of which you inquired, it is loaded with quotes by, references to, and ideas from numerous contemplative mystics including Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, Gary Moon, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, and of course, Basil Pennington. And throughout the book, Benner recommends contemplative meditation, enneagrams (a meditation tool), visualization, and other means to help the reader become a contemplative mystic. The fact is, the very essence of this book shares the same vision and emphasis that most contemplative books do. It is important to understand what the contemplative means by “self-discovery,” or finding your true self. To the contemplative, we each have a false self and a true self. This true self can only be reached or attained to through going into the meditative silence, whereupon, they say, we find that true self which is the divinity within all human beings. The core of contemplative spirituality is panentheism (God in all) and the fruit is interspirituality (all paths lead to God). In The Gift of Being Yourself, Benner’s focus is on helping readers find their “true self,” their divinity within (not dependent on being born again and having Jesus Christ living in you).
Benner has devoted his writing career to spreading the contemplative prayer message such as his book Open to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer, in which teaches readers the contemplative practice lectio divina. You can read our article/booklet on this subject: LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?
Isn’t it something that The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self Discovery is published by InterVarsity Press! While they have certainly published many contemplative books, this one truly shows how strongly they believe in this panentheistic, interspiritual spirituality. And it reminds us once again that the Christian church is in very big trouble, and yet virtually no Christian leader is warning about it. On the contrary. Rick Warren himself has promoted many contemplatives over the years including Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, and several others.
We would encourage you to see if your pastor would read a copy of A Time of Departing. However, we fear that he, like so many other pastors today, may be well down the contemplative road. If he, himself, is practicing contemplative meditation, then he is being drawn in by seducing spirits (familiar spirits); and to convince someone to step away and denounce those euphoric mind-altering experiences is as hard as convincing a drug addict to give up heroin. That’s why the Catholic priest Thomas Merton likened an LSD trip to the contemplative experience. Both entice their victims to think they are reaching God when in fact they are falling into spiritual darkness.