Archive for the ‘Interspirituality’ Category

Taizé Worship – Growing in Popularity, But Roots Are in Mystical Monasticism

Taizé Worship Service

Taizé Community in France during a worship service (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; copyright owner: Damir Jelic; used with permission)

By Chris Lawson
(Author of Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

The worship practiced at Taizé has attracted many people from around the globe and from many different denominations. While many of the words found in Taizé worship music are words found in Scripture or words that do not necessarily contradict Scripture, the Taizé songs and worship services themselves are centered around contemplative, ecumenical, and oftentimes emergent spirituality themes. The emphasis is not on the teaching or exhortation of the Word of God but rather is to help participants “experience” God through sensory-focused music and singing. A church association in the UK describes the Taizé worship style as such:

The contemplative worship practices of the Taizé community are promoted at an annual international conference. Taizé worship is being incorporated in a wide variety of churches, both Protestant and Catholic and its pattern of devotion is emulated in other monastic communities around the world.

A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and use of candles. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practiced at Taizé has attracted many worshippers from around the globe and from many different denominations.1

The main focus on the Taizé worship is the chanted prayers, meditations, and songs. However, the Bible warns against such practices:

[W]hen ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

The Contemplative Network, an online resource for those interested in meditative prayer practices, describes Taizé worship and prayer like this:

For those familiar with Taizé common prayer, but unfamiliar with Centering Prayer practices, they will discover that they grow from the same root of seeking to surrender the mind and heart to the intimate presence of God. They share the same spirit of ancient monastic traditions to open space to let the Word of God reverberate in all its dimensions. Those who have tasted of this open space during the silent period of a Taizé common prayer service may find themselves well disposed to explore related contemplative practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.2

The Taizé worship is not based on the objective Word of God but rather offers spiritual experiences that are subjectively appealing to the flesh. In Scripture, we are instructed to build up the inner spiritual man and to resist the carnality of the flesh (Ephesians 3:16, Romans 8:1-16).

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples that they should not use repetitive prayers (chanting) like the heathen (New Agers, pagans, etc.) do. Anytime experience is given higher regard than God’s Word, it puts followers at risk of becoming victim to deception and even dangerous spiritual realms. Mystical and esoteric experiences are subjective, meaning they are not founded on anything solid or concrete. It is the Word of God (the Bible) that is to be our steering mechanism through life. Consider these verses that show the importance of the Word of God. You won’t find any verses giving credence to seeking after mystical experiences:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)

Taizé Worship Influenced by Catholic Prayers

The repetitive Taizé songs are influenced by the Roman Catholic notion that a person needs to say a certain amount of repeated prayers in order for them to be enough (e.g., the Catholic works mentality—which dictates that one must do enough works to reduce the time in Purgatory).

An example in Roman Catholicism would be the Rosary—a droning repetition of the same set of prayers, something like this: six repetitions of Our Father, fifty repetitions of the Hail Marys, and three repetitions of the Glory-be prayers. These repetitive prayers are usually said before or after mid-week Masses.

Jesus said, when asked about how to pray, to only pray to God (not Mary or saints or angels) and to not repeat the same prayers over and over again like the pagans “for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Six different Psalms tell us to sing a new song unto the Lord, but not one tells us to chant. Now Psalm 136 is unique in that it uses the refrain “his mercy endureth for ever,” but this is not a chant in that each refrain is a response to a different statement. So, unlike the psalms, the Catholic uses endless repetition out of guilt (in doing penance) or to be heard by God or from the sense that the Taizé songs are sung to allow participants to go into mind-altering trance-like states.

Taizé Worship Practices Similar to New Age Meditation

Sadly, many of the spiritual experiences occurring during Taizé worship services are similar to what takes place during New Age meditation. The following quote is from Lacy Clark Ellman, author of the New Age website, A Sacred Journey. Her quote is from “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile.” The processes (i.e., techniques) she mentions are reminiscent of many transformative occult practices. Regarding Taizé worship, Ellman explains:

Singing their [Taizé monks] chants left me transported—centering me, bringing me peace, and thus opening me up to the Sacred. I’ve been known to describe it as the perfect combination of the contemplative and charismatic—the words simple and liturgical in nature, with the repetition making space for the Sacred Guide to enter. . . .

Instead of trying to facilitate an experience with bright lights and catchy songs, the [Taizé] brothers invite visitors into their own experience—a rhythmic practice of chants, reading, and [meditative] silence in languages found across the globe. They didn’t explain what was going on or how to participate, apart from a board that displayed which song was to be sung next.3 (emphasis added)

The problem with this explanation is that occultists (shamans, sorcerers, witches, etc.) and New Age practitioners around the globe are receiving similar experiences, in varying forms, through spirit contact via spiritualism, séances, channeling, etc. So too, non-Christians enter varying levels of voluntary and involuntary possession states using this same process.

Instead of encouraging Christian worship settings that provide for a clear understanding of sound biblical preaching and teaching of the Bible, Taizé worship services provide a fast track to spiritual experience via unbiblical forms of prayer, meditation, and silence. In many cases, they bypass the Bible altogether. In settings like this where anything goes—chanting, centering down to enter “the silence,” lengthy repetitive singing, and meditative/altered states—any form of spirit contact can occur.

Considering these things, it is of utmost importance that Christians heed this biblical warning:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)

When people are not being taught the Bible and warned about the dangers of false doctrine and non-biblical practices, they will inevitably, in mystical Taizé type settings, end up under the influence of deceiving spirits. As the above passage describes, strong delusion will overtake them. This is no small problem as it is running rampant in the church throughout the world.
The true Christian has only one option at this point, and that is to obey Scripture and separate from those who bring teachings contrary to the Word of God.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18; emphasis added)

(This is an excerpt from Chris Lawson’s book Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

Endnotes:

1. The Cornilo Churches, UK (http://www.cornilochurches.org.uk/taiz.htm).
2. The Contemplative Network, “Prayer With the Songs of Taizé (http://www.contemplative.net/prayer-with-songs-taize-t-1_43.html).
3. “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile” (http://www.asacredjourney.net/2013/08/taize).

NEW BOOKLET – SHACK THEOLOGY: Universalism, TBN, Oprah, and the New Age

NEW BOOKLET: SHACK THEOLOGY: Universalism, TBN, Oprah, and the New Age by Warren B. Smith is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. 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 SHACK THEOLOGY: Universalism, TBN, Oprah, and the New Age, click here.

SHACK THEOLOGY: Universalism, TBN, Oprah, and the New Age

By Warren B. Smith

Shack TheologyI have written a number of short articles pertaining to The Shack and its author William P. Young. My intention has been to shed some light on the leaven of universalism that is at the heart of the book’s often errant theology. This booklet presents seven of these articles.

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)

When People Say the Shack is Just a Novel

A woman standing in line outside the theater to see The Shack movie was eager to talk with me about Wm. Paul Young’s best-selling book. She said she “loved” The Shack and couldn’t understand why it had so many critics on the Internet. She was especially perplexed by the number of “negative” comments made by pastors. Obviously confused by all the controversy, she suddenly exclaimed—“But The Shack is just a novel!”

What the woman and so many other Shack readers fail to take into account is that the book is much more than “just a novel.” It is a carefully crafted presentation of Paul Young’s alternative “Christian” universalist theology based on “real” conversations he claims to have had with God. In Young’s forward to The Shack Revisited, a book written by his friend C. Baxter Kruger, Young corrects any misunderstanding that The Shack is just a novel. He writes:

Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story.1

If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame The Shack, this book [Kruger’s] is for you. Baxter has taken on the incredible task of exploring the nature and character of the God who met me in my own shack.2

According to Young, God came to him in the “Great Sadness” of his own personal “shack” and communicated directly with him. Much of The Shack’s theology is based on what Young learned in his conversations with God.

Paul Young’s Conversations with God

A Christian news source recently reprinted excerpts from several posts Paul  Young made on his personal blog back in August 2007. In these excerpts, Young explained that The Shack is a story, but it is a story based on real conversations he was having with God, his friends, and his family. He writes

Remember, I am thinking about writing this for my kids, so I am searching for a good vehicle to communicate through. I figure a good story would be great . . . but I didn’t have one. So I started with what I did have . . . conversations. So, off and on, for about three months I wrote down conversations; conversations that I was having with God mostly, but which often included friends or family.3 (emphasis added)

Is the story “real”? The story is fiction. I made it up. Now, having said that, I will add that the emotional pain with all its intensity and the process that tears into Mack’s heart and soul are very real. I have my “shack,” the place I had to go through to find healing. I have my Great Sadness . . . that is all real. And the conversations are very real and true. . . .

So is the story true? The pain, the loss, the grief, the process, the conversations, the questions, the anger, the longing, the secrets, the lies, the forgiveness . . . all real, all true.4 (emphasis added)

Young’s “Christian” Universalism

In a February 16, 2008 post on a blog called Christian Universalism: The Beautiful Heresy, an avowed “friend” of Paul Young corroborates Young’s 2007 blog post about his conversations with God. The friend describes how the conversations Young’s main character Mack has with God in The Shack are “real conversations” that Young actually had with God. She reveals how these conversations “revolutionized” Young, his family, and friends such as herself. She says that the “radically dangerous” teachings that Young put in his novel have become her new “systematic theology” and The Shack is her new “systematic theology handbook.” The following are her exact words and punctuation as they were originally posted on the Christian Universalism blog:

I know the author well—a personal friend. (Our whole house church devoured it [The Shack] last summer, and Paul came to our home to discuss it—WONDERFUL time!) The conversations that “Mack” has with God, are real conversations that Paul Young had with God . . . and they revolutionized him, his family, and friends (Paul had a very traumatic past, raised by missionary parents, who left him in the care of the stone-age Dani tribe, while they did “God’s work.” He was abused by them, in the process—and there were other tragedies in his life, later on. When he was a broken mess, God began to speak to him). He wrote the story (rather than a “sermon”) to give the real conversations context—and because Jesus also used simple stories to engage our hearts, even by-passing our objective brains, in order to have His message take root in our hearts, and grow. . . .

I had already come to believe all the “radically dangerous” teachings within this book—so it mostly confirmed what I already believed. But, it most definitely highlighted the reality that I don’t yet KNOW (KNOW!) how much God loves me. I want the relationship with God that I see in Paul Young’s life. . . . This was the first book that I read straight through 4 times. First to absorb it. Secondly, to underline. Third to highlight. Fourth, to put “headers” on the top of each page, so that I could find certain passages again. It’s become my new “systematic theology” handbook.15 (emphasis added)

Thus, by his own account and that of his friend, Paul Young would be the first to deny that The Shack is “just a novel.”

Young the Universalist

Back to my conversation with the woman in front of the movie theater. When she said that The Shack was “just a novel,” I described how his novel was actually a fictional device used as a “vehicle” for presenting some of his own misguided theological teachings—teachings that had more in common with New Age teachings than biblical Christianity. When she acknowledged knowing about the New Age movement, I told her that some of The Shack’s teachings were actually New Age teachings. But before I could explain what those specific teachings were and how I had once been involved in the New Age myself, the theater doors opened, the line started moving, and our conversation was suddenly over. She seemed relieved as she turned toward the theater and away from me. Praying that she would come to understand that Paul Young has more in common with New Age universalism than biblical Christianity. I had no idea at the time that Young was about to publicly declare in a new book what so many of us already knew. In Lies We Believe About God, which was released on March 7th, 2017 Young states that he believes in “universal salvation”6 and that “every single human being is in Christ” and “Christ is in them.”7 Thus, Young himself makes it very clear in his own words that The Shack is not “just a novel” but rather a “cunningly devised fable” (2 Peter 1:16) for presenting some of his own heretical universalistic New Age views.

Who is Paul Young Really Listening To and Conversing With?

Paul Young would have us believe that he has been having “real” conversations with God and that he was inspired by God to write The Shack. Yet he is now declaring himself to be a universalist who believes in the false New Age trinitarian doctrine that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are already “in” everyone. In other words, Young, as a professing universalist, would have us believe that all of humanity is already saved (universal salvation). The question that naturally arises and that is now before the church is—just who is Paul Young actually listening to and conversing with? The God of the Bible or seducing spirits (1Timothy 4:1)?

Wm. Paul Young’s Universal New Age Lie—Christ “In” Everyone

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 4:3-4)

Young Publicly Endorses Universal Salvation

In his book Lies We Believe About God, Paul Young openly describes himself as a universalist. In chapter 13, Young would have us believe it is a “lie” to tell someone, “You need to get saved.”8 Young asks himself the rhetorical questions, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?”9 He answers, “That is exactly what I am saying!”10 Young then goes on to teach that “every single human being is in Christ” and that “Christ is in them.”11 With this unbiblical teaching, one recalls how Young put these same heretical “God in everything” words in the mouth of his “Jesus” character in The Shack. He wrote:

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.12

The Trinitarian Lie

Young would have us believe his trinitarian lie that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inherently indwell everyone.13 This is exactly what the false “Christ” of the New Age teaches. In fact, it is the foundational teaching of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion that has progressively moved into the world and into the church.

New Age in the Church

As I pointed out in my booklet, The Shack and Its New Age Leaven,14 the teaching that God is “in” everyone is the foundational universalist New Age teaching that has been increasingly popularized over the last thirty years by New Age authors and teachers and heavily promoted by people like Oprah Winfrey. Sadly, it is also found in the books and teachings of well-known church figures like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Eugene Peterson, Leonard Sweet, and Sarah Young.15 And in a November 1, 2016 Catholic News Service article titled, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” Pope Francis, in a Catholic Mass in Malmo, Sweden, proposed a new “beatitude”—“Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.”16

What Will the Church Do?

Paul Young wanted to have a conversation about the nature of God, and that conversation is now front and center before the church. Will pastors and leaders and day-to-day believers contend for the faith and fight the good fight, or will they let false teachers like Paul Young have their uncontested say and have their uncontested way?

Shack, TBN, and the New Age Lie

Trinity Broadcasting Network has provided The Shack author Wm. Paul Young with the world’s largest “Christian” stage—his very own television series on TBN. Young’s Restoring The Shack episodes have been masterfully produced on location in beautiful Montana. His presentations are usually underscored and enhanced with soothing music that is clearly designed to evoke a strong emotional response and positive assent from viewers to whatever Young may be preaching or teaching.

In what could also be described as “The Shack Show,” Young brings his own weekly brand of Shack promotion, Shack theology, and Shack therapy to TBN viewers as he hopes to convert them from their own “Great Sadness” to his own “relational” take on what used to be biblical Christianity. The real sadness is that Young’s Shack theology and Shack therapy have more to do with his love for universalism and New Agey trinitarianism than it does with scriptural truth.  Why New Agey? Because when Young teaches about “relationship” he is, by his own Shack definition, referring to the Trinity within—a God and Christ and Holy Spirit that are said to be “in” everyone and everything.17

Somewhat elusive about exposing his own personal universalism in the past, Young has recently made himself very clear on the matter. In his March 2017 book Lies We Believe About God, he asks two rhetorical questions of himself—“Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?” His immediate and almost defiant response in the book is—“That is exactly what I am saying!”18 Nevertheless, TBN has been only too pleased to not only promote his new book on every episode, but to simultaneously use it as a fund raiser for themselves at the same time. Obviously, with TBN becoming a showcase for Paul Young and his creative, relational, universalistic, New Agey take on the Trinity, TBN is giving new meaning to the “Trinity” in Trinity Broadcasting. And it looks like Young and TBN are in for the weekly long haul as most Christian leaders look on with apparent indifference.

TBN Pulls Plug on “Shack” Author’s New Book—Sort of . . .

Now you see Shack author Wm. Paul Young’s new book Lies We Believe About God promoted on TBN, now you don’t. For seven straight episodes of Trinity Broadcasting Network’s weekly series Restoring The Shack, Paul Young’s new book was prominently featured and even offered as a fund raiser for TBN. Each week’s episode was then posted on the Internet—promos and all. But starting with episode 8, everything changed. Young’s new book was no longer featured and promoted. It also disappeared from episodes 2-7 that had been previously posted on the Internet. TBN editors had actually gone into the previously posted original programs and edited out all their prior offers for Lies We Believe About God. Into the spots where Lies had been offered, a promotional offer for The Shack has been inserted into its place—who would ever know? Only the first episode of Restoring The Shack has retained the original promos for Lies, perhaps as a minor concession to the author or as a way to keep their editing process from being a complete and total whitewash.

Why the disappearing act? From all appearances, it looks like an emergency edit for the purpose of damage control. You would have to ask the publicity department at TBN, but one can only speculate that the network had not done themselves any favors by endorsing and promoting Young’s extremely controversial new book. In Lies, Young had announced, among other things, that he was a proponent of “universal salvation,”19 that the statement “You need to get saved” is a “lie,”20 and that Christ is “in” “every single human being.”21 TBN was probably getting a mountain of questions on all fronts as to why they were promoting this book—a book that in so many ways is at complete odds with biblical Christianity. In light of Young’s new book, one major ministry wrote TBN stating that having Young’s program on TBN was “inexcusable” and “downright blasphemous.”

In a week that saw the graphic artist who helped design the cover of The Shack renounce the book and renounce his involvement with the project,22 TBN made their move. Young’s book Lies has—at least for now—faded into the background and disappeared from TBN. And while some might commend TBN for eliminating their promotion of Young’s new book, the question that still begs to be asked is—”Why did TBN ever promote Lies We Believe About God in the first place? Better yet, why did they ever promote Paul Young and The Shack in the first place?

The Shack’s Universal Papa

There is nothing new about saying, “I am God.” . . . However, in the Judeo-Christian-Moslem world, God is usually not popularly understood as a universal presence, the ground of all being.23—New Age leader David Spangler (emphasis added)

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things [a universal presence]24The Shack’s “Jesus” defining “Papa” as a universal New Age God (emphasis added)

Shared Universal Presence

Ask certain indigenous peoples of the South Pacific Islands who Papa is, and they will tell you she is a female goddess25—just like The Shack’s female Papa. Ask certain Haitians, New Orleanians, and Wiccans who are into Voodoo, and they will tell you that Papa is a shapeshifting “trickster” who can appear as either a male or female deity—just like The Shack’s Papa.26 And if you ask, they will all tell you that their Papas are universal Papas who dwell “in, around, and through all things”—just like The Shack’s Papa.

Papa as Earth Mother

Shack enthusiasts should take note that “Papa” is also the name of a Polynesian Earth goddess who is part of a pantheon of gods and goddesses found in the South Sea Islands. On the “Journeying to Goddess” website, under the heading “Goddess Papa,” we read that Papa is “the Earth Mother who gave birth to all things” and that “Polynesians summon Papa to help in all earthly matters.”27

In his book Unshackled, Pastor Larry DeBruyn describes how Paul Young’s “Papa” bears a striking resemblance to “the name, nature, and nurturing potential” of this Polynesian Earth goddess Papa.28 Quoting from a source on Hawaiian gods and goddesses, DeBruyn cites the references they make to the “comfort,” “care,” “guidance,” and “unconditional love,” that are given to people “in times of crisis and grief” by this Hawaiian Papa and how her “intervention instills calming reassurance and healing.”29 Young seems to parallel the same script as The Shack story wholly revolves around the comfort, care, guidance, and unconditional love that is given by Papa to his main character, Mack, during his time of crisis and grief—how Papa’s intervention instills calming reassurance and the ultimate healing of Mack’s “Great Sadness.”30

Another website elaborates on how the female Polynesian Papa “worshiped by Native Hawaiians” is regarded as “a primordial force of creation who has the power to give life and to heal.”31 A pagan site informs us that a Papa goddess is especially prevalent amongst the Maoris of New Zealand,32 while another site references a South Seas Papa as part of the mythology of the Southern Cook Islands group.33 While Young obviously put a lot of thought into the naming of his Shack characters, and even though he spent his early childhood living on the South Pacific Island of Papua New Guinea,34 he claims to have had no knowledge of this South Seas Papa goddess prior to his writing of The Shack.35

Papa as Trickster

Certain Haitian, New Orleanian, and Wiccan Voodoo practitioners are devoted to a spiritual “Papa” who can appear as both “male and female” and is known as the “trickster.”36 By simply googling “Papa” and “trickster,” a variety of websites emerge to describe this Papa Legba spirit that stands at the gateway to the spirit world. One of these sites—“Exemplore”—states that Papa Legba “is one of the most widely served African deities” and “is always the first and last spirit invoked in any ceremony” because “he opens and closes the doorway to the spirit world.”37 The site explains that in Voodoo, “Papa” is “the intermediary” who “stands at a spiritual crossroads and grants or denies permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee.”38

On the same Exemplore site, in a special section for witches, Papa is described as a “master shape shifter” who “can help you transform on the astral realm, master dream powers, and advanced magics.”39 But in regards to Papa, it states that “in his shapeshifter form he tends to change genders and forms to delight himself. So don’t be surprised if a woman shows up to help you.”40 And just as Paul Young’s female Papa and the South Seas islands female Papa can be summoned for help, comfort, and healing, this Voodoo trickster Papa can be similarly called upon. One of the posted comments on this witches part of the site states—“Anyone can summon Papa!”41 But sometimes this Voodoo Papa comes when he is not summoned. In another comment, a perplexed woman wrote—“I did not know about Papa at all until he presented his self to me as my spirit guide. Is this normal?”42 A posted reply assured her that “Papa does his own thing his own way, so if he presented himself to you, you can be sure it is him.”43 Another site expressed the confusion that can result from a female “God” named Papa—“It’s so confusing because Papa is a Mama.”44 But Scripture assures us that the one true God is “not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He is not a Papa who is a Mama which art in a Shack—He is “our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9).

Praying to Which Papa?

So what Papa are people invoking when they are inspired to pray to Papa after reading The Shack? Is Paul Young presenting Shack readers with the true God of the Bible or with a generic Papa “God” that overlaps with all the other mamas and papas and gods and goddesses around the world? The Shack’s “Jesus” answers that question loud and clear for any Shack reader who has a heart for the truth. With words purposefully put in his mouth by Young—a self-described universalist45The Shack’s “Jesus” proclaims that his Papa “God” is “the ground of all being” because he “dwells in, around, and through all things.”46 In other words,  The Shack’s Jesus says that The Shack’s Papa indwells everyone and everything. This is the same universal God that New Age leader David Spangler describes in the beginning quote of this article. But this is panentheism, and this is a lie. This is the foundational teaching of the New Age/New Spirituality/New Worldview that has been rapidly emerging both in the world and in the church. All of this is to say—The Shack’s Papa is a universal Papa and The Shack’s “God” is a counterfeit “God” who has cunningly wormed his way into an unsuspecting church.

Trickster Book

As seen with the Voodoo Papa, some of these mama and papa gods and goddesses are also “tricksters.” And they are definitely doing their trickster thing—which often entails cleverly undermining existing societal rules and established religious beliefs as they offer their unique brand of spiritual healing in the name of a more universal alternative spirituality. What can be especially deceptive is that much of their rebellious spiritual activity is cloaked in half-truths, clever remarks, playful humor—and even Christian language. And what seems all too apparent is that The Shack—and particularly The Shack’s Papa—fall into this trickster category. The novel grabs people’s hearts and minds even as biblical Christianity is being dismantled in front of them as they read the book. And only a trickster book can convince people they are reading about Jesus Christ when the name of Christ is never mentioned—not even once—in the entire story. A generic universal Jesus and a generic universal Papa and not a single mention of Christ, or the Devil for that matter—yet The Shack has already become one of the most popular Christian books ever written!

Trickster books for the church will use Christian language to pull the wool over your eyes to mess with your mind—it’s all part of “messing around” and being a trickster. Toward the end of The Shack’s story, when the female Papa shapeshifts into being a male Papa, Mack asks if Papa is “still messing” with him. Papa’s immediate answer is—“Always.”47 At this point, sincere readers of The Shack need ask themselves a reasonable question—“Is the one true God of the Bible always “messing” with us, or is this what you would expect from a universal gender-bending trickster Papa “God” who bears more of a resemblance to the trickster god of this world than the one true God of the Bible.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

Universal Shack Therapy: Wm. Paul Young, Kahlil Gibran, and “The Great Sadness

Wm. Paul Young writes that The Shack is “theology wrapped in story.”48 And his Shack theology presents a universalistic Shack Therapy for the “Great Sadness” that plagues his main character “Mack.” Young remarks in numerous interviews that, like Mack, most people have their own inner “shack” where they store their secrets and their own personal “Great Sadness.” This “Great Sadness” becomes Young’s personal metaphor for the inner pain and anguish locked within his and other people’s souls. Lebanese-American writer, artist, philosopher, and universalist Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) uses this same phrase—”great sadness”—in his 1926 book The Madman: His Parables and Poems. He wrote:

Then a great sadness came over the face of my soul, and into her voice.49

However, it seems that the derivation of Young’s phrase “The Great Sadness” was consciously or unconsciously taken from parts of two consecutive lines from yet another Gibran book that Young actually quoted from in The Shack. Chapter 4 in The Shack is titled “The Great Sadness.” Underneath this title, Young quotes a single line about “sadness” from Gibran’s work Sand and Foam—“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.”50 The next line—one that Young did not quote—has the word “great” in it: “When either your joy or your sorrow becomes great your world becomes small.”51 The word “great” in the second line linked with “sadness” in the line directly above it creates Young’s term—“The Great Sadness.” Whether or not he realizes it, Young seems to have derived the phrase “Great Sadness” from the universalistic writings of Kahlil Gibran. In his essay “Your Thought and Mine,” Gibran writes:

Your thought advocates Judaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. In my thought there is only one universal religion, whose varied paths are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being.52

In the Acknowledgments section of The Shack, Young thanks Kahlil Gibran for his “creative stimulation.” He quotes Gibran not only in The Shack, but also in opening the very first chapter of his second novel Crossroads. Kahlil Gibran is best known for his perennial best-seller, The Prophet—a book that “has long been one of the bibles of the New-Age movement.”53 As a matter of fact, as former New Agers, Gibran’s book was a treasured part of our New Age library. What’s more, “New Age Pioneer” was the title of a 1998 New York Times book review about Gibran and his New Age influence.54 Robin Waterfield, an authority on Gibran and a consulting editor for religious and New Age publishers, wrote a definitive biography on Gibran that was the subject of the aforementioned New York Times book review. Waterfield’s book, Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran, described the biographer’s belief that Gibran was highly influential in the initial formation of the New Age Movement:

I suggest that Gibran has been one of the hidden influences on the New Age . . . I cannot say that without him the New Age movement would not have arisen, but it is, I think, safe to say that he has had an enormous influence on it.55

I think it is arguable that Gibran was one of the founding fathers of the New Age.56

Ten years after the release of The Shack, Paul Young declared he was a believer in universal salvation.57 Sounding much like any New Age universalist, Young is now teaching the panentheistic and heretical New Age doctrines of Christ “in” everyone58 and God “in” all things.59 With The Shack being recently made into a movie and with Shack book sales now over 22 million copies, with countless radio and television interviews and church talks under his belt, and with his own Restoring The Shack weekly TBN prime time television series, Paul Young had done just about everything except appear on Oprah. But then he also did that. On July 9, 2017, Young was the featured guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday television program.60 The day after the program, Young suddenly announced—“I want to be more like Oprah.”61 And with that statement Shack lovers should be shocked that an avowed Christian would want to be “more like Oprah”—one of the most influential New Age leaders in the world today.62 But what most people don’t realize is that in regard to New Age universalism, Wm. Paul Young is already like Oprah—and Kahlil Gibran—and this may be one of the greatest “Great Sadnesses” of all.

A Cat Named Judas

The name Judas has been described as the most hated name in all the world. Except for Shack author Wm. Paul Young and maybe a few exceptional others, hardly anybody ever names anyone or anything Judas. It is one of those forbidden names like Jezebel or Lucifer that people would never dream of naming their child, their dog—or their cat. The very name denotes a sense of treachery and betrayal. After all, Judas was the one who openly betrayed Jesus and paved the way for His crucifixion. So what was Paul Young thinking? Why does The Shack’s most endearing character—Missy—have a cat named Judas?63 And it seems especially odd to have a cat with that name in a family where the mother’s faith is described as “deep”64 and Missy is asking sincere questions about Jesus’ death.65

Heresy and Betrayal

Young contends that The Shack is much more than a fictional novel. He describes The Shack as “theology wrapped in story.” He writes:

Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the Word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience.66

This is said in spite of the fact that Young’s Shack characters and universalistic Shack “theology” frequently mock God and God’s Word with their cryptic humor and clever interplay. To be perfectly blunt, the name Judas fits right in with much of what Young is teaching. Like Judas, Young betrays Jesus Christ and biblical Christianity with his heretical Shack theology—a Shack theology where there is, among other things, no Devil and no Christ. Neither of them can be found anywhere in the whole Shack story. The Devil is never mentioned because Young would have us believe that evil and darkness “do not have any actual existence.”67 And The Shack’s “Jesus” is never identified as Christ. In fact, the name of Christ is nowhere to be found in the whole Shack story.68

One well-known pastor gave an impassioned sermon about thirteen heresies he found in The Shack.69 One heresy he did not mention is perhaps the most egregious of all—the panentheistic proposition that God is “in” all things. Incredibly, Young puts this foundational doctrine of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion right in the mouth of The Shack’s “Jesus.” Young’s “Jesus” states—“God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.”70 But this is a false teaching. God is not “in” all things.71 For Young to put these heretical words in the mouth of The Shack’s “Jesus” is an absolute betrayal of the true Jesus Christ.

A Wonderful and Horrible Betrayal

Thus, as Paul Young plays fast and loose with biblical Christianity, should we be surprised that he plays fast and loose with a name like Judas—a name that perfectly describes his role in today’s wayward church. What Young describes as “theology wrapped in story” is really biblical betrayal wrapped in a cunningly devised fable (2 Peter 1:16). The Shack is everything that the true Jesus Christ warned us to watch out for when he said to “be not deceived” (Luke 21:8). And that warning would seem to include authors like Wm. Paul Young who think nothing at all about putting heretical New Age doctrines in Jesus’ mouth and naming a little girl’s cat Judas.

The Shack may seem “wonderful” to countless Shack readers, but in reality it is a betrayal of biblical Christianity and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah—The Shack may seem “wonderful,” but it is actually “horrible,” and yet the people “love to have it so.”

A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

To order copies of SHACK THEOLOGY: Universalism, TBN, Oprah, and the New Age, click here.

Endnotes

  1. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going on Here than You Ever Dared to Dream ( New York, NY: FaithWorks, Hatchette Book Group, 2012), p. xi.
  2. Ibid., p. viiii.
  3. Sunny Shell, The Shack, a Biblical and Interactive Review” (http://blogs.christianpost.com/abandoned-to-christ/the-shack-a-biblical-and-interactive-review-28674/, posted 2/16/17), quoting Paul Young from his August 15, 2007 blog titled “The Shack—update—Background #2” (http://web.archive.org/web/20070911092057/http://www.windrumors.com/29/the-shack-update-background-2/).
  4. Sunny Shell, “The Shack, a Biblical and Interactive Review” (http://blogs.christianpost.com/abandoned-to-christ/the-shack-a-biblical-and-interactive-review-28674/, posted 2/16/17), quoting Paul Young from his August 15, 2007 blog titled “Is the story of The Shack true . . . is Mack a “real” person? (http://web.archive.org/web/20070911092319/http://www.windrumors.com/30/is-the-story-of-the-shack-trueis-mack-a-real-person).
  5. Christian Universalism—The Beautiful Heresy: The Shack (http://web.archive.org/web/20080307051159/http://christian-universalism.blogs.com/thebeautifulheresy/2008/02/the-shack.html, posted February 16, 2008 by Dena Brehm). Thanks to Kent McElroy for bringing this blog to my attention.
  6. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017), p. 118.
  7. Ibid., p. 119.
  8. Ibid., chapter 13 title in Lies We Believe About God is “You need to get saved.”
  9. Ibid., p. 118.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., p. 119.
  12. William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
  13. In C. Baxter Kruger’s book, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream, in the foreword, Shack author William Paul Young writes: “I want to say, ‘Thank you, and please read The Shack Revisited.’” He adds, “If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame The Shack, this book is for you. Baxter has taken on the incredible task of exploring the nature and character of the God who met me in my own shack” (p. ix). On page 49 of The Shack Revisited, Kruger writes: “For inside of us all, because of Jesus, is nothing short of the very trinitarian life of God.” C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream, op. cit. p. 49.
  14. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290.
  15. I have documented a short history of how this deceptive New Age teaching has entered the world and the church in my booklet Be Still and Know That You Are Not God. The booklet includes quotes by each of these figures. To read a copy of this booklet online, visit http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17572.
  16. Cathy Wooden, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” (Catholic News Service, November 1, 2016).
  17. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 112.
  18. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God, op. cit., p. 118.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid., p. 115.
  21. Ibid., p. 119.
  22. Dave Aldrich, graphic artist for The Shack book cover, said this on his Facebook page on April 4th 2017. See “Artist ‘Deeply Regrets’ Designing ‘Shack’ Cover, Says A Loving God Must ‘Judge’” at https://hellochristian.com/7153-artist-deeply-regrets-designing-shack-cover-says-a-loving-god-must-judge.
  23. David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson, Reimagination of the World: A Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture (Sante Fe, NM: Bear & Company Publishing, 1991), p. 148.
  24. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 112.
  25. Part Three: The Chiefs xx Papa and Wakea (http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/hm/hm22.htm; Godchecker website: http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/oceanic-mythology.php?list-gods-names).
  26. Denise M Alvarado, “Papa Legba and Other Spirits of the Crossroads” (Who is Papa Legba?, Images of Legba, https://exemplore.com/magic/papalegba).
  27. https://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/goddess-papa/, “Goddess Papa” September 19, 2012.
  28. 2 Larry DeBruyn, Unshackled: Breaking Away From Seductive Spirituality (Indianapolis, IN: Franklin Road Baptist Church, 2009), pp. 27-28. Author’s reference pertains to the now archived Wahine’o Wanana Institute’s “Hawaiian Goddesses” website: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20110410205614/http://www.powersthatbe.com/goddess/papa.html.
  29. Ibid.
  30. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., pp. 43-66, p. 92, pp. 96-98, pp. 101-102.
  31. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papahanaumoku.
  32. The Goddess Papa, http://www.holladaypaganism.com/goddesses/cyclopedia/p/PAPA.HTM.
  33. Wikipedia: Papa (mythology), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papa_(mythology).
  34. Wm. Paul Young—About (http://wmpaulyoung.com/wm-paul-young-about).
  35. Eric Barger, “Why The Shack Must be Rejected” (Lamb & Lion Ministries, Lamplighter, May 2017, http://christinprophecyblog.org/2017/04/why-the-shack-must-be-rejected), pp. 13-14.
  36. “Papa Legba and Other Spirits of the Crossroads” (Exemplore blog, Images of Legba, Who is Papa Legba?, https://exemplore.com/magic/papalegba).
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. “Papa Legba for Witches,” How Legba Can Help You (https://exemplore.com/wicca-witchcraft/papa-legba-for-witches).
  40. Ibid.
  41. Ibid., Posted Comments (Nitecat response to babygirl1414).
  42. Ibid., Posted Comments (jacynnavarro).
  43. Ibid., Posted Comments (Nitecat response to jacynnavarro).
  44. http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/oceanic-mythology.php?deity=PAPA.
  45. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God, op. cit., pp. 118-119 (Young states that he believes in universal salvation.)
  46. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 218.
  47. merriam-webster.com and encyclopedia.com (ousia).
  48. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited, op. cit., p. xi.
  49. Khalil Gibran, The Madman: His Parables and Poems (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 2002, originally published in 1918 by Alfred A. Knopf, New York), p. 55.
  50. Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam (Lexington, KY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, originally published in 1926), p. 37. Note: William Paul Young left out the word “but” in quoting this line from Gibran’s work.
  51. Ibid.
  52. Kahlil Gibran, Short Works by Khalil Gibran (Your Thought and Mine). (newthoughtlibrary.com/gibranKhalil/shortWorks/shortWorks).
  53. John Dodge, “Kahlil Gibran and the Fall of the Prophet” (Three Monkeys Online Magazine, www.threemonkeysonline.com/kahlil-gibran-and-the-fall-of-the-prophet).
  54. Liesl Schillinger, “Pioneer of the New Age” (The New York Times, December 13, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/13/reviews/981213.13schillt.html).
  55. Robin Waterfield, Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p. 290.
  56. Ibid., p. 289.
  57. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God, op. cit., p. 118.
  58. Ibid., p. 119.
  59. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 112.
  60. Oprah Winfrey, Super Soul Sunday, YouTube July 9, 2017.
  61. Wm. Paul Young personal blog, “I Want to Be More Like Oprah.” (http://wmpaulyoung.com/i-want-to-be-more-like-oprah-watch-interview/).
  62. It should be noted that although Oprah Winfrey is an exceedingly powerful and influential New Age leader, she still persists in identifying herself as a Christian. But her Christianity is a New Age Christianity that is not biblically based and is no Christianity at all.
  63. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 231.
  64. Ibid., p. 11.
  65. Ibid., p. 31.
  66. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited, op. cit., p. xi.
  67. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 136.
  68. Warren B. Smith, “The Christless Shack” (article posted at warrenbsmith.com).
  69. Michael Youssef, The Shack Uncovered: 13 Heresies Explained (Leading the Way Ministries, 2017, PDF: https://store.ltw.org/p-315-the-shack-uncovered-13-heresies-explained-pdf.aspx).
  70. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p.112.
  71. Warren B. Smith, Be Still and Know That You are Not God: God is Not “in” Everyone and Everything (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2015). This booklet traces the history of the false teaching that God is “in” everything. It also offers a scriptural refutation of this heretical doctrine. Visit www.lighthousetrails.com.

To order copies of SHACK THEOLOGY: Universalism, TBN, Oprah, and the New Age, click here.

Author Bio: Warren B. Smith (B.A. University of Pennsylvania; M.S.W. Tulane University)—A veteran who worked at the White House Communications Agency and later became a community social worker, serving as a program coordinator for people with special needs, directing several homeless programs, and working as a Hospice social worker in New Orleans and on the California coast. After leaving the New Age movement and becoming a Christian, he began writing extensively on the subject of spiritual deception. He has written seven books and numerous booklet tracts and has spoken on radio, television, and at seminars and conferences for the last twenty-five years. For more information, visit www.warrenbsmith.com.

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”—Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens, p. 93

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Jan Johnson. . . . I was encouraged and redirected in so many ways. As a young woman trying to navigate the ins and outs of my relationship with the Lord, Ms. Jan spoke wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.—Priscilla Shirer (emphasis added; http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/wisbits; quoted in 2010 and still up on Shirer’s website)

Priscilla Shirer

This week, our office received a call from a woman who was concerned that her church is going to be doing a study using material by Priscilla Shirer. Our caller wanted to get some information she can show her pastor as to why her church should not be doing a Priscilla Shirer study. Because Priscilla Shirer is a contemplative proponent, we concur with our caller’s concerns. In John Lanagan’s booklet,  Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer,Lanagan shows how both Moore and Shirer have been advocates of contemplative spirituality for quite some time. In that booklet, and this is what we want to focus on in this article, Lanagan discusses a woman named Jan Johnson. Because Priscilla Shirer embraces and has gleaned spiritually from Johnson, we need to take a closer look at what Johnson believes.

We first heard about Jan Johnson in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing where Yungen explains:

Spiritual director Jan Johnson, in her book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, is a perfect example of an evangelical Christian who endorses and promotes this practice [contemplative prayer]. She leaves no doubt about what this type of prayer entails:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” [emphasis added]

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. [emphasis added] (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 82.)

When Johnson talks about stilling the mind in order to experience God’s presence and hear His voice, she is referring to something that is universal with mystics—putting the mind into a neutral, altered state where one is not aware of the distractions around him. This inner stillness can only be achieved through some type of meditative practice (see Johnson’s quote at top of this article), which in the case of “Christian” mystics is contemplative prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with contemplative jargon, the “cloud of unknowing” is taken from a small book of the same name, written by an anonymous monk several hundred years ago. The book is a primer on contemplative prayer and in it instructs:

Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . .  With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

This is describing a mantra-style practice, no different than that used in eastern meditation. It is interesting that Jan Johnson says the effect of this type of prayer is “unnerving.” Webster’s Dictionary defines unnerving as “inspiring fear.” This reminds us of another contemplative teacher, Richard Foster, who suggested that people pray prayers of protection before practicing contemplative prayer in order to avoid an evil encounter. But where in Scripture is prayer to God described as inspiring fear or something that needs prayers of protection first? Nowhere. That’s not how God’s Word defines prayer.

Jan Johnson

In Jan Johnson’s book, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness, Johnson shows her resonance with a number of contemplative figures with quotes by and references to them.  One particular name that jumps out is New Age sympathizer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Read a few quotes by Chardin and then ask yourself, why would a Christian author (Johnson) be drawn to someone with these views:

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 pantheist aspect of Christianity.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56

Now I realize that, on the model of the incarnate God whom Christianity reveals to me, I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe. Thereby, too, my deepest ‘pantheist’ aspirations are satisfied.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 128.

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.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 95.

Johnson’s 2016 book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina leads readers in lectio divina meditations. Lectio Divina is used today as a gateway practice into contemplative mystical prayer. In her book, Johnson provides a section titled  “Relax and Refocus (silencio)”  which is instruction to readers on how to get rid of mental distractions when trying to practice lectio divina:

Each exercise begins with brief guidance to slow down, quiet your inner self and let go of distracting thoughts. . . . focusing on God. A way to interrupt this [mental] traffic is to focus on being present in the moment by breathing in and out deeply— even overbreathing. It also helps to relax our body parts one by one: bending the neck, letting the arms go limp, relaxing the legs and ankles. Loosen each part from the inside out. This doesn’t mean you’re setting aside your mind— you’re redirecting your mind away from the busyness that often consumes you. Being present in the moment prepares you to wait on the still, small voice of God. If you are distracted, you may want to try the palms up, palms down method. Rest your hands in your lap, placing your hands palms down as a symbol of turning over any concerns you have. If a nagging thought arises, turn your hands palms up as a “symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” [Foster] If you become distracted at any time during meditation, repeat the exercise. (Meeting God in Scripture, Kindle version, Kindle location 102)

To back up her teaching on practicing contemplative meditation and finding that inner stillness of the mind, Johnson turns to several contemplative teachers in Meeting God in Scripture. Sadly, God and Scripture are not the only things readers are going to meet when they read this book by Johnson. They will also meet Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and David Benner. Other books Johnson has written have the same caliber.  A few of those titles are:  Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, and Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Willard and Johnson). She has written several others books which carry the same message: you’ve got to have the inner mental silence to really know God (something Beth Moore has said too—in the Be Still DVD).

We could give several more examples of Johnson’s embracing contemplative spirituality. You won’t find much that she has written that doesn’t include this element. In one article on her website titled “What Is Solitude & Why Do I Need It? or . . . Turn Up the Quiet,” she quotes panentheist Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. Why does Jan Johnson keep referring to contemplative mystics in her writings? There can only be one answer to that question—because she resonates with them.

Conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this article, Priscilla Shirer “was encouraged and redirected in so many ways” when she met Jan Johnson. She added that Johnson “spoke wisdom into [Priscilla’s] life that was extremely pivotal in [her] life—personally and in ministry.” Shirer said these words in 2010 and has left them up on her website to this day. Obviously, she still feels this way about Johnson. In Shirer’s popular book 2006/2012 Discerning the Voice of God, she favorably quotes Jan Johnson twice from When the Soul Listens. Shirer also quotes contemplatives Joyce Huggett and Phil Yancey in Discerning the Voice of God. Shirer clearly has been influenced by Jan Johnson as she admits herself.

We’ll close with this: On Priscilla Shirer’s website, where she talks about meeting Jan Johnson, she also includes an article by Johnson who is quoting panentheist Catholic priest Richard Rohr (founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation) from his book Everything Belongs (meaning everything and everyone is part of God). Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the foreword to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he has an article titled “Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human—this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Lighthouse Trails has written numerous times about Rohr as he is aggressively pushing his panentheistic mystical spirituality into the evangelical church. If everything you have read in this article has not persuaded you to steer clear of Shirer’s studies, then this should do it, hands down. The fact that she keeps the post about Rohr on her website should alarm all Bible-believing Christians and illustrates the spiritual affinity Priscilla Shirer is drawn to.

Before your church does a Priscilla Shirer study, please keep in mind the things you have read in this article. Contemplative prayer has roots in panentheism  (God is in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God) as you can read in Ray Yungen’s article “The Final Outcome of Practicing Contemplative Prayer: Interspirituality.” Do you really want your church influenced in any way by a spirituality that is so against the Cross? Are we saying Priscilla Shirer is necessarily against the Cross? No, but for someone who wrote a book on how to discern the voice of God, she sure isn’t showing any discernment in the voices that she herself is listening to and being persuaded by.

“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé

By Chris Lawson
(From his 2017 book, Taizé—A Community of Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

In a book titled A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship, and Reconciliation (with a foreword by Desmond Tutu), author Jason Brian Santos says that the “three prominent theological themes of Taizé are reconciliation, freedom and trust.”1

Taizé Community

In explaining “reconciliation,” Santos says that Brother Roger [founder of Taizé community in France]  did not want any particular “theology” at Taizé because that would hinder the “reconciliation” between those of different religious persuasions. Santos describes Brother Roger’s ecumenical vision:

As the community developed and new brothers joined Brother Roger, it became apparent that genuine ecumenism would be one of the most significant challenges the community would face. After all, for over four hundred years estrangement had existed between Protestants and Catholics. But for the young Swiss theologian, it was four hundred years too many. Brother Roger understood all of humanity to be reconciled to God in and through Christ. . . . all are equal in Taizé; the community becomes a living example of reconciliation. . . .

This, to a large degree, is why the Taizé chants were birthed to help bring young people from different Christian traditions together in a unified expression of prayer.2

Bearing in mind that these “unified expression[s] of prayer” are largely mystical repetitive chants and other contemplative practices (e.g., lectio divina, centering prayer), the words of the Catholic contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, come to mind. Merton once described a conversation he had with a Sufi (Islamic mystic) leader who told Merton there could be no fellowship between those of different religions as long as doctrines (he referred then to the “doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption”3) stood in the way. Merton assured him that while doctrines such as these were a barrier, there could be unity of spirit in the mystical realm.4 This is what Brother Roger was proposing for Taizé.

Jason Brian Santos, who spent time at Taizé researching the community, sums up Taizé’s view of reconciliation:

When Christ made all things new, he restored in us the image of God. Moreover, this image was restored in all of humanity. As a consequence, when we see our neighbor we ought to see the image of God; we ought to see Christ.5 (emphasis added)

Webster’s Dictionary defines “reconciliation” as “the act of reconciling, or the state of being reconciled; reconcilement; restoration to harmony; renewal of friendship.”6

To the Catholic Church, this reconciliation means something very different from the idea of two friends reconciling after a disagreement or estrangement. Rather, it sees the “reconciliation” between Catholics and Protestants as the reabsorption of Protestants into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as an institution, has always seen Protestants as “the lost brethren,” so the only feasible reconciliation is to bring them back. The papacy and the Roman hierarchy will only be fully satisfied when they have fully assimilated the Protestant church into its system on its terms.

In Roger Oakland’s book, The Good Shepherd Calls, he discusses the “Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation.”7 Oakland explains the efforts being made by both the Catholic Church and leaders in the Protestant church to eradicate the barriers that keep the Catholics and the Protestants from becoming one church. There is every reason to believe that Taizé desires this very same thing. And with 100,000 people coming to Taizé every year, they very well may see this union take place sooner than later.

An online promotional piece for Jason Brian Santos’ book A Community Called Taizé by his publisher, InterVarsity Press, asks the question, “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?”8 Like the emerging-church movement with its sensory-driven mystical contemplative practices, momentum is picking up rapidly in ecumenical movements worldwide. But why has the Taizé Community in particular grown so much in recent years? One apparent answer is that several popes and many Protestant groups have heartily promoted and endorsed it. While it is being touted as a place of reconciliation through love, certainly there is more going on than meets the eye.

Endnotes:
1. Jason Brian Santos, A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation (IVP Books, 2008, Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 1366.
2. Ibid.
3. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), pp. 109-110.
4. Ibid.
5. Jason Brian Santos, op. cit.,
6. http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Reconciliation.
7. Roger Oakland, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Inc, 2017), p. 131.
8. “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?” (InterVarsity Press website: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20100104080925/https://www.ivpress.com/title/ata/3525-look.pdf).

Can Cultures Be Redeemed? – Emerging Church Says “Yes” – Bible Says “No”

By Nanci Des Gerlaise

[Indigenous People’s Movement] leaders teach that God has been redeeming cultures and that He placed in all cultures a way for men to have a relationship with God outside of the Gospel.1

DID GOD CREATE CULTURES?
A growing trend in the evangelical church is what is referred to as “redeeming the cultures” or “Cultural Identification.” Essentially, it is the idea that God created cultures and has no desire for anyone to leave their cultural practices but can incorporate their belief in Jesus into their already existing culture. Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries has studied this “redeeming the culture” movement extensively and writes:

The new idea being presented is that God has left certain elements in every culture that are redeemable qualities, pathways to Himself . . . that He revealed Himself to nearly all indigenous people groups prior to the Gospel being brought to them [and that] in every culture “God has left treasures and worthy traditions within the indigenous cultures” [and that] we can bring Jesus Christ to people and then leave them to worship God in their own cultural and religious ways. . . .

What is taught is that God set forth His plan of salvation through all ancient cultures and that “redemptive analogies” can be found in most, if not all, cultures.2

But did God really create cultures? I do not believe He did because cultures are man-made. Webster’s Dictionary defines culture as being: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” Another definition states:

The quality in a person, or society that rises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc. 2). a particular form or state of civilization.3

On the contrary to what leaders in the “redeeming the cultures” movement teach, most cultures were “pagan, polytheistic and animistic.”4 For most of these cultures, there was a significant emphasis placed on religious practices. Oppenheimer points out that the words culture or society cannot be found in the Bible, but rather it talks about “nations” and how these nations worshiped false gods as opposed to the “one true God”5 (read Romans 1).

What does the Bible have to say about the different nations (cultures)? In Deuteronomy, we are cautioned to:

Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them . . . that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-32)

And Deuteronomy 18:14 tells us not to “follow the abominations of those nations.”

In all of human history, God has sanctioned just one culture, and that was Israel. This may be a humbling thing for other cultures to accept, but this is what the Word of God clearly demonstrates as the prophet Isaiah said, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:13). Then, after Jesus came and died upon the Cross, people from every other culture were given the opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we can be grafted in as adopted sons and daughters. And God takes the born-again, grafted-in believer and separates him or her from the world to Himself “to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).

Also in Acts, Barnabas and Paul cried out to the Gentiles, who were about to offer sacrifice to them, saying:

[W]ho in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14:16, emphasis added)

Paul and Barnabas said this because they were shocked by the ignorance and blasphemous behavior of the people.

The apostle Peter reminds us that God has set apart “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” so that we who believe on Him would be called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:6-10). God calls people out of their cultures and invites them to come into His kingdom.

CAN WE REDEEM THE CULTURES?
In the Gospel of Matthew, it says:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We are to go and preach to the different cultures and teach them “to observe all things” that God has instructed in the Word of God. Nowhere in Scripture does it even remotely suggest that one’s culture is to be redeemed. And yet, there are leaders within Christianity who are teaching this very thing. In a YWAM training manual, it states:

Appreciating one’s culture is appreciating the creation of God in a unique and beautiful manner. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are also called to redeem our culture as we grow in God.6

Within the Indigenous People’s Movement, leaders are teaching that each culture already had God’s truth before they ever heard the Gospel. Leon Siu, a leader of this movement, states:

A few years ago some friends and I were contemplating how we would be able to reach indigenous peoples and we thought that what was prevalent at that time was a misconception among, within the church of God’s presence here in the islands. The misconception that, as was expressed earlier, was that God didn’t arrive until the missionaries arrived. You know, and so when we started to look at this we started to look into our culture and see what things within our culture what God had originally intended for this particular group of people, Hawaiians.7

But Scripture tells us that the Gospel was kept a “mystery” hidden “from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:25-26). This is why Jesus gave that command to the disciples to go to all the nations sharing the truth of God’s Word. The people of the world’s cultures did not have that truth until it was brought to them.

On Leon Siu’s ministry website, it states that they want to show “indigenous people, missionaries and Christians . . . the true nature of Jesus,” saying that His way is not to be a “foreign religion that destroys people groups and their cultures, but one that brings people groups and their cultures to their highest fulfillment.”8

Sandy Simpson, founder of Deception in the Church ministry in Hawaii, has written an expose titled “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’s Movement.” He tells readers:

In the Old Testament God revealed Himself to the Jews exclusively and there was no salvation apart from the Jews. In the New Testament God revealed Himself through the apostles, and especially through Paul to the Gentiles. All the gods of the nations were and are false gods (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20, Jeremiah 16:19, Amos 2:4).

Even the “supreme beings” of the nations are not God, as in the case of Amen (Amon) of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25), Hadad of the Arameans (1 Kings 20:28), Marduk of Babylon (Daniel 3:16-18) and many other “detestable” gods.9

Another research ministry, Discernment Research Group, warns that “the new heresies teach that man can come to Christ without the Gospel of Salvation but by some other avenue inherent in their culture and religion.” DRG describes what this view is really like:

And they don’t need Jesus to be saved, but can call upon their own local deity. And once they get “saved,” they can “redeem” the pagan religious practices in their culture and make it part of their new faith. They never need to separate from their old ways. In fact, they are encouraged to bring back the old pagan ways!10

We cannot call on strange gods and find salvation. The Bible is absolutely clear about this:

Hear, O my people . . . if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. (Isaiah 81:8-9)

This “progressive” way of looking at evangelism is prevalent and widespread now. One of its key leaders, Daniel Kikawa, author of Perpetuated in Righteousness, believes that:

Christians should cease representing Jesus as the Son of the foreign God of a foreign people. . . . We should instead introduce Jesus as the Son of their creator God.11 (emphasis added)

John Dawson, president of YWAM, would agree with what Kikawa says. He states that Kikawa’s book “points the way to an exciting new understanding” of the Gospel.12

But this “new understanding” is very flawed. You can’t just add Jesus to any religion or cultural belief system and say that is the biblical Gospel. The Bible says, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14). In man’s carnal mind, he cannot accept this. But when we learn to trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and when we come to believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then we can rejoice that He has provided a way of escape from eternal damnation. He has not left us alone. We no longer complain or lament that there is only one way to Heaven—rather, we rejoice that there IS a way to Heaven. It is like this little analogy: A woman is in a house caught on fire, and there is no way to get out. Suddenly, in through the door bursts a big strong firefighter. “Ma’am, I am here to rescue you.” Will she say, “Are you the ONLY way out?” No, she will rejoice that there IS a way out. That is how God earnestly, zealously, and jealously longs to have it be with us.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The following comparison chart shows the differences between man’s view and God’s view of cultures:13

Man’s View: All cultures are equal in their worth.
God’s View: All cultures are not equal.

Man’s View: God loves all cultures and nations as they are.
God’s View: God does love all people but not their cultures. He does not accept their various ways to worship but has given man the correct manner in which to worship.

Man’s View: All religious practices and rituals are acceptable ways to approach God.
God’s View: Only one way is given by God that is acceptable, through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.

Man’s View: We are all united as one humanity and should accept everyone as they are.
God’s View: Our humanity is united in sin (in Adam), resulting in our separation from God, and we need to be united in Christ. Christ, and Christ alone, then becomes our common denominator.

Man’s View: All the gods of the nations are the same or have insignificant differences.
God’s View: The gods of the nations are false; YHWH alone is God, and there is no other according to His own Word.

Ephesians tells us that before we heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we were without hope. We cannot obtain this hope through the gods of the nation’s cultures.

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh . . . That at that time ye were without Christ, being . . . strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12)

What will happen to the false gods, which have no life in them? Jeremiah tells of their future:

The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11)

NATIVE AMERICANS & THE MISSIONARIES
Native American author and lecturer for the Indigenous People’s Movement, the late Richard Twiss, taught that the Gospel was a “source of division and stumbling block for First Nations peoples and this is to be blamed on Western missionaries.”14

In a sense, Twiss is partially correct in saying that the Gospel was a source of division. It was, and it still is! Quoting from the Old Testament, listen to what Paul says about Jesus:

Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and a rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:33)

And Jesus said:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

It is true that the Gospel does divide. It divides truth from error.

Western missionaries did lead First Nations people to God through the Gospel and still do today. But the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples (WCGIP) teach the traditions of men and belittle those faithful missionaries who gave of themselves to lovingly share the Gospel with the First Nations and Native American people. Sandy Simpson explains that while there were some “misguided missionaries” who tried to “change indigenous cultural values to Western ones,” the IPM leaders “ignored the many missionaries who, in presenting the Gospel and sound doctrine, necessarily preached things that were in opposition to demonic cultures and practices like those of the Indians.”15 Simpson explains further:

The missionaries were faced with heathen cultures, not unlike their own in the past, and attempted to apply biblical principles, in cooperation with those in First Nations, to come up with a way of living in accordance to the Word of God. . . .

Mistakes were made, but if you talked to the first generation of converts . . . you would understand fully what First Nation’s cultures were like at the time. Sexual perversion, women and child abuse, murder, human sacrifice, ruling elite who lorded it over everyone else, worship of demons, and other atrocities were commonplace. Those who heard the Gospel preached to them and recognized the freedom in Christ offered were saved and delivered from the evil in their cultures.16

The IPM leadership does not understand what these cultures were like before the missionaries came. Simpson also states:

[The missionaries] were not sent to bring culture nor was that their purpose. They were primarily bringing God’s values, the Bible, and applying its time-tested truths, together with First Nations peoples, so that they might be light and salt to the nations.17

Terry LeBlanc, a leader in the Indigenous People’s Movement, tries to convince people that the “American Indians were not worshiping different gods or worshiping incorrectly before the missionaries brought to them Christ.”18 LeBlanc states:

There’s a myth that we have labored under for centuries in indigenous communities and the myth is that we are a godless heathen people.19

What the IPM is teaching in their vilifying of missionaries is a tactic also used by leaders in the emerging church movement, which convinces people that the former or biblical way of doing things is inherently bad. This is the platform they use to introduce radical new ideas to create a paradigm shift that is, unfortunately, unbiblical and leads people further and further from the Gospel message of salvation.

A book that I recently wrote the foreword to is titled Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires. The book was written by a Canadian missionary who lived for many years among the Cree people in Manitoba in the late 1800s. When you hear Egerton Ryerson Young’s account of his life with the Cree as a missionary, it is a much different account than what is being told in North American public school history books and by groups like the Indigenous People’s Movement. In the foreword of Young’s book, I wrote:

“[T]he Gospel was shared with Natives, including medicine men, which so often resulted in decisions being made for Jesus Christ. . . . [Mr. Young] shares very extraordinary events as he journeys to the remotest parts of Canada sharing the Gospel to the lost. He describes witnessing boldly to medicine men regarding their pagan beliefs with very encouraging and positive results achieved by no other than the Holy Spirit.

“Young tells [a] story of an old Chief who was taught the truth by a missionary regarding his belief in paganism. The missionary urged him to renounce this pagan, mystical spirituality and become a Christian. The old Chief was aware that he was a great sinner and needed a Savior. What an illustration this story is to show that God has placed in each of our hearts a conscience to know right from wrong.

“[T]he Gospel is indeed for everyone, and a loving God desires that none should perish without hearing about the Gospel (2 Peter 3:9). God does not accept the diverse spirituality of all cultures as being locked into truth. For Him to accept false and contradictory spirituality, while the Gospel calls all to repentance and belief in the Savior, would make God a liar—because there can only be one truth. And God cannot tell a lie because He is just and holy.”20

What is being taught in the new “emerging” way of doing missions (or the “new missiology”) is that we cannot teach that salvation is the finished work of the Cross and that we must incorporate any unredeemable “articles of affection” to godly worship such as: fetishes, tobacco, peyote, sweet grass, drums, prayer feathers, frenzied dances, etc.

But to do so is idolatry in God’s eyes and is blatant syncretism, from which we need to repent if we have engaged in these forbidden practices. We are redeemed and purified only by the blood of Jesus Christ, not through man-made efforts such as sweats, smudging ceremonies or via any ritual or ceremony. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross and declared, “It is finished!” Therefore, no other avenue is available by which we can be purified or redeemed. Remember, there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ Himself (1 Timothy 2:5). But look what He promises those who remain true in standing in the faith:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife [the saints] hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19: 7-9)

Titus Coan was a missionary in the 1830s to the Hawaiian Native people. Though he is little known today, some say he was the greatest missionary who ever lived. His is another example of the contrast between biblical missionaries to the Native people and the new missiology that is being presented by Leon Siu, Richard Twiss, John Dawson, Terry LeBlanc, and the other IPM leaders. In this account by Coan, it’s not difficult to see what happens when the true biblical Gospel is preached:

At one place where I preached, there was an old and hardened Chief, who neither feared God nor regarded man. I preached to him fearlessly, personally, pointedly, calling him by name, and in the presence of his people. I charged home his guilt upon him, and in the name of the Lord urged him to immediate repentance. He was much moved, and promised repentance the first day, but I was not satisfied that his proud heart was broken.

On the second day I renewed the charge. He stood the siege for awhile, but at length his feelings became insuppressible, and all of a sudden he broke forth in a cry that almost rent the heavens. The sword of the Spirit was in his veins. He submitted on the spot, and appears like a newborn babe. The effect of this scene on the congregation was overwhelming. The place was shaken. Multitudes cried out for mercy, and multitudes turned to the Lord. I could tell you of many similar facts. God has done great things for us. I feel like lying in the dust and adoring His grace.21

Oh that more missionaries today could have such zeal and confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is that glorious thing that washes away all our sins and gives us garments of purity and cleanness to wear for eternity.

THE TOWER OF BABEL
This brings us back to Genesis 11:3-4 where the people decided to build a temple or ziggurat (ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides), which was built as a monument to their own greatness. In verse 4, the tower was a great human achievement to the people themselves and not to God. We often build monuments to ourselves such as those described above. It can be in the form of expensive clothing, fancy vehicles, huge homes, or jobs with titles that we use to give us identity and self-worth. Yet when we do this, we are usurping God from His rightful place in our lives. Are there “towers” like this in your life? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves. Since the attempt to build the tower of Babel, man has never ceased in his attempts to attain greatness and stature.

Cultural spirituality, with its many traditions, is not supported by Scripture; rather we are met with God’s consistent warnings throughout the Bible, one of which is found in Colossians:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

And in the Gospel of Mark, we find:

Making the Word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7:13)

The word ‘culture’ appears nowhere in the Bible from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. The Greek word paradosis translates into the English word “tradition.” Pay careful attention to what God has to say about tradition in the following verses:

Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:2-3, 6)

Also see Matthew 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:3-13; and Colossians 2:8.

Man developed culture at Babel and passed down this same teaching to all generations to this apostate age in which we live. Grandpa used to share how the New Age (the New Spirituality) hijacked Native Spirituality. Yet, in all this, one thing remains certain—all unbiblical teaching originates from Babel.

The “redeeming the cultures” mindset:

. . . permits the Word of God to be “contextualized” to a pagan culture through images, icons and symbols, thereby retaining the pagan elements of that culture. Using “redemptive analogies” (another heresy), these pagan beliefs and practices are claimed to be “redeemable” and are “christianized.” Even the name of God is being changed to that of pagan deities!22

The resurgence of Native Spirituality made a huge comeback because these traditions were kept alive in the underground world and originate from the age-old idolatry and witchcraft Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns against. To blend error with truth results in damnable heresies resulting in swift destruction, which the Bible warns us strongly about:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2: 1)

Scripture gives no indication at all that we are to esteem the cultures or traditions of men. In Amy Dueckman’s article about the circle event, she says:

Opening the evening, members of the Sto:lo Coqualeetza Elders group of Chilliwack presented a special welcome with songs. Aldred then addressed the group, telling of his experiencing Christianity as a Native person who wondered if the Gospel was just for white people, or if it could speak to him, too. “When the Gospel is shared, it must be in the heart language of the people,” he concluded. “Instead of telling [people] how to be Christian,” he asked, “how about just telling them the story?”23

What story would that be? We do not have the authority to change the way we are to share the Gospel! We are commissioned to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is in the business of redeeming individual people that He might set apart a people for Himself. He did not say, “Go into the world and disciple the nations using stories!” The only story we are to share is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to preach Christ crucified!

Man’s rebellion against God in Babel, following the flood, once again became a situation requiring God’s judgment and intervention due to mankind’s wickedness. Had God not confounded man’s language, which in turn resulted in man being dispersed and disseminated into nations, man’s wickedness only would have worsened with no end in sight. If you read from Genesis 1 to Genesis 11, you will read that God created man, birds, animals, fish, and creeping things. It does not say that He created cultures. God told the people to be fruitful and multiply. Man disobeyed, and instead, in his rebellion, man attempted to build a city to avoid being sent away. But God did just that anyway after they rebelled the second time by refusing to go forth and multiply (Genesis 10:30-32; Genesis 11:1-11). Man developed his own heathen traditions and passed down this teaching at Babel. In the Old Testament, plenty of evidence exists where God told the Israelites what they should do about other gods that were worshiped within the constructs of other belief systems (other cultures):

And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. (Exodus 23:13)

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. (Psalm 96:5)

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. (Deuteronomy 18:9)

Today, God is bidding Christians everywhere, from all cultures, to separate ourselves from all the idolatry imbedded in our traditions and to hold fast to the Gospel–God’s plan for salvation for whosoever will believe on Him (John 3:15).

To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed? in booklet format, click here.

Notes:
1. Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church, “Reasons to Reject the “World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People” Movement” (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
3. Random House Dictionary, taken from Let Us Reason website: “Looking For God in All the Wrong Places” (http://www.letusreason.org/Emerge13.htm).
4. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
5. Ibid.
6. YWAM, Island Breeze Training, “What is a Discipleship Training School?” (http://web.archive.org/web/20070712212212/http://www.islandbreeze.com.au/training.htm).
7. Leon Siu, Aloha Ke Akua, Word to the World with host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001, show #544, courtesy Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church who transcribed this program.
8. Aloha Ke Akua Ministries (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha – no longer online).
9. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement” (March 2006, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
10. Discernment Research Group, “The Indigenous People’s Movement” (August 2, 2007).
11. Daniel Kikawa, Perpetuated in Righteousness (Aloha Ke Akua Pub; 4th edition, 1994), p. 27.
12. Aloha Ke Akua “Books” page (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha/id3.html).
13. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
14. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement,” op. cit.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
19. Terry LeBlanc, Word to the World program #542, as cited by Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
20. Nanci Des Gerlaise, from the foreword of Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2011).
21. Titus Coan, Missionary to Hawaii (http://www.path2prayer.com/article/1051/revival-and-holy-spirit/books-sermons/new-resources/famous-christians-books-and-sermons/titus-coan-missionary-to-hawaii).
22. Discernment Research Group, “The Newest Heresy of the NAR: Orality” (Herescope blog, March 8th, 2006 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/03/newest-heresy-of-nar-orality.html).
23. Amy Dueckman,“Listening Circle Brings Together Two Cultures” (Intotemak, Mennonite Church Canada, Summer 2006, Vol. 35, No. 2, www.mennonitechurch.ca/files/news/intotemak/intotemakv35n2.pdf).

To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed?, click here.

The information in this booklet is extracted from Muddy Waters. Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality is written by Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree First Nations. Nanci is the daughter and grandaughter of medicine men and was raised on a Canadian settlement.

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Kingdom-Now Evangelicals

By Roger Oakland
While I believe Rome leads the way with the bold claim that God chose Peter and the succeeding popes to take the title of “Vicar of Christ” and determine what the sheep should or should not believe, other groups believe they have been called to usher in or even prepare and set up the kingdom of God here on Earth without the presence of the King. Often taking the position that Jesus will not actually physically return to rule and reign for a period of one thousand years, these groups see themselves as chosen by God to be human vessels for this purpose.
Common names for this teaching are: Kingdom Now, Dominion Theology, and Reconstructionism. It is the idea that before Christ can return, the world must be brought together in unity and perfection, and this work will be done by the Christian church. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan, Jim Wallis’ social gospel agenda, and Tony Campolo or Brian McLaren’s emergent church are a few of the avenues through which this is being propagated. The goal is to basically eradicate all the world’s ills (e.g., disease, poverty, terrorism, and pollution) and thus, we will have created a “Heaven on Earth” Utopia.

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)
The following list of some of the erroneous teachings in Kingdom-Now theology illustrate how dangerous this belief system is, yet it has tremendously pervaded the church today:
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
This movement has swept the planet, and those who refuse to join hands are considered “colonial,” “militant fundamentalists,” and “narrow-minded crackpots” who are not willing to catch the “new wave” and get on board with the mighty revival that is moving the world toward unity and peace. Many of the leaders in this movement have no problem whatsoever joining with the pope in Rome and the kingdom-of-Earth plans he has for joining together with other religions, including Islam.
While some discerning Christians can see how this trend plays a role in light of Bible prophecy, there is a huge portion of Christianity that does not. These are those who are reading books by authors who promote emerging church (or “progressive Christianity”) ideas for the postmodern generation that reject the teachings of the Bible and embrace establishing the kingdom of God on Earth right now. They are willing to join hands with other religions by reinventing Christianity into a “broad-way” spirituality where all are saved and part of God’s Kingdom. No longer do they believe in the “narrow road” to eternity. The kingdom of God is for all religions, they say (and even for those who believe in nothing). Unity, peace, connectedness, and oneness is all that matters, while biblical doctrine is being set aside as irrelevant to the “new reformation” at hand. Obviously, such a view leaves little room for the Cross and the biblical Gospel. And Scriptures such as this one are overlooked:
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)
Unfortunately, while there may be many pastors, like Rick Warren, who still hold to a personal belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior, the time will come when the path they are now taking may cost them dearly. It is my hope that these leaders might wake up to see what they are doing before it is too late. And let us not forget the countless number of people following these shepherds who may never embrace a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of the truths being withheld from them for the sake of “peace” and “unity.”
It is also grievous to know that a good number of “Christian” leaders no longer believe (or have never believed) in the Cross as a propitiation for sin but maintain their belief that such a concept is both archaic and barbaric. They hold to the view that Christianity needs to be reinvented for our times. Brian McLaren, who in 2015 represented “Christianity” at the Parliament of the World Religions in Utah, holds to just such a view. In one interview, he said that the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death is “false advertising for God” and he equally rejected the doctrine of Hell as well.2
In addition, McLaren has played a significant role in promoting kingdom-now theology as can be seen in his book The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything. McLaren, who was once listed by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 most influential persons associated with evangelical Christianity, has sought to upgrade the Christian faith in order to make it relevant for today. He asks a number of questions at the beginning of his book that imply the church has misrepresented Jesus’ core message and promotes the idea that Christians need to be honest with themselves even if that means altering their faith. In his book, he makes the following statement:
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
In McLaren’s 2016 book titled The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, he describes this all-inclusive “kingdom of God” that incorporates “multifaith [i.e., all religions] collaborations.” He states:
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)
While many evangelicals have now pushed Brian McLaren to the sidelines of evangelical Christianity, others have continued carrying on his message, sometimes in more subtle ways. But as the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. Satan’s devices are always in play. His goal is to destroy the message of the Cross, and while he cannot ever actually destroy it, he can cause untold numbers to reject it by offering them substitutes. But we know there is no substitute for the finished work on the Cross by Jesus Christ, who is the only Savior for mankind.
What Does This Tell Us?
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?
While the idea that the kingdom of God is being established here on Earth by human leaders has been around for centuries, we should pay special attention when current events reveal that though the world gets worse and worse, we are being told it is getting better and better. When false religions become part of the kingdom, then clearly, this is not God’s kingdom, but rather it is the kingdom that belongs to the god of this world. Jesus made it very clear there are two kingdoms—one of God and one of this world—when he told Pontius Pilate shortly before He was crucified, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Jesus also said to Pilate in that same conversation “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” Ask yourself this, are you hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, or is it the voice of the god of this world who leads a kingdom that is not of God?
Endnotes:
1. Taken from “Kingdom-Now Theology” (Lighthouse Trails blog, March 6, 2007, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=3295).
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.
(Roger Oakland is the author of several books, booklets, and is featured in many teaching DVDs and films. His latest book, The Good Shepherd Calls, deals with the apostasy taking place in the church today.)

Attempts to Blend Christianity with Other Religions

By Maria Kneas

Numerous attempts have been made to blend Christianity with other religions on a world-wide scale. You can read about them in Carl Teichrib’s article “Unveiling the Global Interfaith Agenda.”1

There are also other attempts to merge Christianity with different religions. For example, Chrislam tries to combine Christianity with Islam.2 There are people who call themselves Christian witches (i.e., combining Christianity with Wicca). There are attempts to mix Christianity with Hinduism, and with Buddhism, and with Shamanism. (A shaman is a Native American medicine man.) Some people claim to be Christian witch doctors or Christian sorcerers. You can even buy a book about Christian Voodoo.3

Nominal Christians are people who are Christians in name only. They call themselves Christians, but they really aren’t. They don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, they ignore or deny foundational Christian doctrines, and they don’t try to live the way God has instructed us as described in the Bible. Such people can fit in with other religions. However, born-again Christians aren’t able to do that because they have God’s Spirit living inside them Who convicts them of sin and enables them to trust and obey the Lord. And because God is living inside them, He gives them the grace and strength to abide in Him. Simply put, biblical Christianity cannot mix with other religions.

             Water and oil | bigstockphoto.com

To compare it to something physical in everyday life, you cannot mix oil and water. Because of their very nature, they just don’t mix. You can put them in a glass jar and shake them until they seem to be blended, but then they will separate and the oil will rise to the top of the jar.

To carry that analogy further, if you add an emulsifier, then they can mix. It goes against their nature, but the emulsifier bridges that gap. In real life, Christians who are under severe pressure (such as the threat of prison or torture or death) may go against their nature and try to blend in with whatever is politically correct. That happened in Nazi Germany. I’ve seen pictures of church altars with swastikas on them. However, Jesus warned us not to make such compromises:

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)

These days, it is not politically correct to be “exclusive” by claiming that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. However, we need to be biblically correct rather than  politically correct. The antidote to the fear of men is the fear of the Lord. Jesus warned us:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1:7)

Jesus made it clear He is the only way to be right with God the Father. There is no other source of salvation. He said:

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:7-11)

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
(by Edward Mote, 1797-1874)

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Endnotes:

1. Carl Teichrib, “Unveiling the Global Interfaith Agenda” (Kjos Ministries, October 2, 2011, www.crossroad.to/articles2/forcing change/11/interfaith.htm).
2. To read more about Chrislam, read Mike Oppenheimer’s article/booklet titled, Chrislam: The Blending of Islam & Christianity: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=13109.
3. I found all of these attempts to mix Christianity with other religions by doing a quick search on the Internet. You can easily find them for yourself. Just search for “Christian” plus any other religion or spiritual practice that you can think of.

Maria Kneas is the author of two Lighthouse Trails books and several booklets.


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