“Death by Church” – Emergent New Paradigm Pastor to Speak at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

Emerging/emergent spirituality is making serious inroads into Christianity. Churches and Christian colleges, unaware of the subtle undermining of such spirituality, are embracing teachers and leaders of this movement and pointing others to them. Often they are unaware of what these teachers really believe and teach. In light of an event (Movement 2009) scheduled to take place on May 29th at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, the Calvary Chapel mother church, with RockHarbor pastor, Mike Erre, Lighthouse Trails is posting this special report.

In the pages of Death by Church: Rescuing Jesus from His Followers, Recapturing God’s Hope for His People (Harvest House, 2009), author Mike Erre (pastor of RockHarbor Church in Costa Mesa, California) acknowledges that Jesus is Lord. He also references a number of Scriptures and talks about several different Bible stories. But for the discerning Christian who knows his Bible, it doesn’t take too long into Erre’s book to realize something is amiss, and such a reader soon begins to have a sense that he is theologically being tossed to and fro between the pages of this book and soon feeling like he is in a battle zone for the truth. Sandwiched between the Scripture references and the mention of “Jesus” is a theology that does not at all represent the Gospel.

Death by Church has a point to make–that God is saving “all of creation” (eg. p. 100) and that the “church” is not the substance of the kingdom of God (i.e., the whole of creation and all of humanity is). In fact, Erre says, the church is not the kingdom of God at all – it only points to the kingdom of God, which incorporates all of creation and, if the church does all the right things it can have the privilege of being part of that kingdom too. Erre seeks to prove his point but not just by turning to Scripture – he turns to prominent figures in the emerging/emergent church (those such as Brian McLaren and Dan Kimball), the contemplative mystical prayer movement (those such as Dallas Willard and panentheist Richard Rohr-a favorite of Erre’s), and New Age sympathizers (those such as Marcus Borg, who believes Jesus did not see himself as the Son of God (see FMSN, p. 124), and Gregory Boyd, author of the not-yet published work, The Cosmic Dance). Couple Erre’s frequent use of emerging/contemplative/New Age sympathizing authors with his kingdom-now theology wrapped in universalist/panentheistic overtones, and Death by Church actually takes on a pseudo-name, Death by Deception. But let’s take a closer look:

Erre states in the beginning of the book that as Christians, “We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for” (p. 22). Relying heavily on statistics and studies in this first section of the book, Erre wants the reader to know that for the most part over the “majority of the last 2000 years” Christians have “been the sponsor and center of most of Western culture and civilization”(p. 20). But this has not been a good thing, according to Erre, who says that something has “gone very wrong,” particularly with “American culture,” which has been guilty of simplifying “complicated things.” He gives an example: salvation. “We have reduced salvation into four steps that allow me entrance into heaven when I die. But in so doing, we have bypassed the gospel that Jesus preached–the gospel of the kingdom of God. This gospel deals much more with the ‘here and now’ that the ‘then’ [‘then’ meaning when Jesus died on the Cross] and there’ [there meaning heaven, our eternal home]” (p. 26). And this is Erre’s set up for the remainder of the book.

The kingdom of God theology that Erre presents is broad–in fact, very broad. That is why he turns to Brian McLaren, Alan Hirsch, and a number of other broad-minded thinkers to make his case. Erre is not merely quoting these figures in a benign manner–he clearly resonates with them and admits many of them have been “highly influential” in his life.1 He fondly and favorably tells his readers what they think and what they believe. Quoting Alan Hirsch, Erre says that “the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism” (p. 31). He eventually defines “consumerism” as individualism, saying that there has been too much emphasis within Christianity on individual salvation and nothing on corporate salvation (ie., all of the world and creation being saved).

As with most emerging authors, Erre exalts uncertainty and doubt (always searching, never finding). He states: “Jesus brings mystery, paradox, and tension–rarely did someone get a straight answer out of Him” (p. 36), which is not true about Jesus at all. To help build Erre’s case, he turns a number of times to two Fuller Seminary professors, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger. Interestingly, in Faith Undone, Roger Oakland’s expose of the emerging church, Oakland discusses Gibbs and Bolger. He states: “They found that emerging church leaders are not impressed with Christians who defend the faith by offering definitive answers to those who doubt the faith (p. 182).” Doubt and uncertainty are vital to the emerging church thinking–and to their mission–and without this foundation, the emerging church cannot reach its goal of an all-inclusive kingdom (that Erre seeks to present in Death by Church). This resonates with Thomas Merton who told people of other religious traditions that we are already in unity, but we just don’t realize it yet. (see ATOD, p. 159). Again from Faith Undone, Oakland quotes Gibbs and Bolger:

Evangelism or mission for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe, no matter how edgy or creative I get. It is more about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.2

Oakland shows how Gibbs and Bolger are presenting an “inclusive gospel,” certainly the overall message of Erre’s book.

Ironically, Gibbs and Bolger look to emerging church figure, Spencer Burke (of The Ooze), who, according to Burke’s publisher’s website (Zondervan), has had significant connections to Erre’s RockHarbor Church.3 Roger Oakland reveals some disturbing things about Burke’s spirituality that sound very inline with Erre’s. Quoting Gibbs and Bolger again:

Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian fold. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit has been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions. They reach out to other traditions, and see them as beloved children of God. With a focus on kingdom rather than on church, people find that their relationship with other faiths changes.

Back to Death by Church. Erre says that “Central to the kingdom is God’s desire to renew, restore, and reconcile all things” (p. 41). Calling this a “deep theology” (p. 42), Erre says he would like to “lay a theological groundwork” (p. 45). First, he explains that a gospel that focuses on “going to heaven after you die, and praying the prayer of salvation” is “only a narrow slice of what the Scriptures teach about salvation” (p. 46). Erre adds: “His great purpose is to restore His fallen creation and renew it beyond the original” (p. 48). Numerous times throughout the book, he says that the “central theme” of the Bible is “the kingdom of God” (p. 54). But as the discerning reader pours through the pages of Death by Church, a clear and disturbing picture of what Erre means by “kingdom of God” begins to take shape–when Erre talks about the kingdom of God, he means that “the church” is “not the kingdom.” The kingdom is “something bigger.” “If the kingdom is inclusive,” Erre says, “the church should be also” (p. 78).

Erre sounds very much like New Age Episcopalian priest, Matthew Fox, who calls the “deep theology” that Erre talks about a “deep ecumenism” (“deep” meaning all-inclusive). Fox expresses this clearly:

I foresee a renaissance, “a rebirth based on a spiritual initiative” … This new birth will cut through all cultures and all religions and indeed will draw forth the wisdom common to all vital mystical traditions in a global religious awakening I call “deep ecumenism.”4

While Erre himself does not speak of the “mystical traditions” in Death by Church, many of those he incorporates into his book (Willard, McLaren, Rohr, Borg, Bell, Kimball, etc.) abundantly do in their own writings (see LTRP for documentation).

Erre is not shy about sharing his replacement theology views. Speaking of a “coming restoration” (p. 88) and a “new order,” he says that the “people of God” are “the new and renewed Israel” (p. 95). Reading through the book, one realizes that Erre sees no prophetic value or plan (for the future) in Israel.

“Jesus … creates a new order–a new community, a new Israel” (p. 104).

“Jesus of Nazareth reconstructs a true Israel by choosing 12 disciples (one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel)” (p. 110).

“Central to understanding this call of Jesus is the idea that it concerned itself less with the salvation of individual souls and more with the formation of a renewed Israel, a community of disciples that would collectively embody the kingdom” (p. 111).

“The early Christians saw themselves as continuing Israel’s story … as messianic Israel” (p. 116).

Echoing his fellow emergent leaders, Erre minimizes “the question of what happens to me after I die” and talks about a “cosmic” Jesus who “sends His “new community, the church” into the world (p. 98). He states: “The New Testament … regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for human beings and the whole world” (p. 98). He calls it the “here and now” theology (p. 99). (“Our worn-out theology of escaping from this world does not do justice to the here-and-now work” (p. 99).

Erre’s theme, that all of creation is being restored and saved, is redundant through the book. On one page alone, he drives the point several times:

1. “God wants to redeem the whole person and all of creation.”
2. “The good news … is about the rule of God being applied to all of creation–every part of human beings and the world.”
3. “Our traditional conceptions of salvation are blatantly more individualist, focusing on one’s individual reconciliation with God through a personal relationship with Jesus … It is more concerned with getting souls to heaven than with bringing heaven to earth. [This resonates with Marcus Borg, who calls this old paradigm Christianity.] This narrow gospel focuses only on the salvation of the human soul, but the gospel of the kingdom s includes salvation of human beings within the context of the larger story of God restoring all of creation.
4. “[T]he consummation of the kingdom includes an entirely new creation.
5. This new and cosmic salvation is spoken of as the renewal, restoration, or reconciliation of all things.”
6. (p. 125): “One of the ways that the kingdom is larger than the church is that the focus on the kingdom is the redemption of all creation. The message of the kingdom of God is cosmic in its proportions … it [the kingdom] is ultimately aimed at redeeming and restoring all that God has made” (more on pp. 128-129; 210-211; 217).

Please understand that the view Erre is expressing in these statements is classic universalism (which negates the Gospel message of Jesus Christ because faith in Christ is not a requirement for salvation, and regardless of one’s acceptance or rejection of the Gospel, he or she is saved. This would mean, as Neale Donald Walsch teaches, that even Hitler would be saved).5

It is important to note here that when Erre talks about God restoring and renewing all things, he is not talking about the new heaven and the earth that will take place after the events that are foretold in the Book of Revelation. He is espousing a view about a renewal and restoration that will occur prior to these events (this is called kingdom-now theology).

Erre says that this newly defined “Kingdom citizenship” incorporates those of other kingdoms as well, not just our own kingdom of God, which helps us to see “our place in the cosmic [meaning universal] story” (p. 112). This new “Kingdom” “has decreed that independence has no place in His kingdom. Instead collective interdependence is demanded,” Erre states. One term that Erre uses frequently is a term that resembles New Age leader Barbara Marx Hubbard who also speaks of a “new humanity.” When Marx Hubbard uses this term, she means man has been enlightened to understand his own divinity and now realizes all of humanity is being saved, along with all of creation. The stipulation for this “new humanity” is not whether someone has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through being born-again and regeneration through Christ–no, it is about a new humanity that has joined together and understands her cosmic divinity (see Reinventing Jesus Christ).

Erre’s kingdom-now theology is expressed throughout the book. For instance on page 132, he states that the gospel is “something bigger” than the “story of Jesus’ dying for the private sins of individuals…. it is the story of God’s kingdom being launched, on earth as in heaven, generating a new state of affairs. Atonement, redemption, and salvation are what happen on the way.” This is typical emerging spirituality that does not see atonement, redemption, and salvation as a moment in history when Jesus Christ died on the Cross but rather an ongoing process that is continually growing, expanding, changing (see our review of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope). Erre states that “the end of the age does not result in the destruction of the earth but rather in its renewal.” He says: “[R]ather that waiting for the last days, we have been living in them since the coming of Jesus. Rather than waiting for the end to come, we are already living in the end times that will be consummated when Jesus returns” (p. 198). And, “[T]he end of the age does not result in the destruction of the earth but rather in its renewal”(p. 212).

Erre believes that the church “neither initiates nor sustains [God’s] work” on the earth but must seek out where the work of God is already taking place and participate in that work. He says when we take on this view, we can then understand that the “whole of creation is now included in the scope of redemption.” “The church is not the primary location of God in the world; the world is,” he says (p. 133).

Death by Church lays out a perfect example of what Lighthouse Trails calls “the new missiology.” In essence, Erre tells believers that “we don’t take Christ to a region or people group, but we instead show up and pay attention to the work that Jesus is already doing. We have to move away from the current mind-set about church, ministry, and mission.” (p. 136). In other words, we don’t have to tell people about Jesus because Jesus is already there among them (before they hear the Gospel and believe; i.e, they can keep their same religion and still be connected to God). This is what William Young, author of the #1 best-seller The Shack, echoes when The Shack’s “Jesus” says he has no desire to make anyone Christian. Erre states: “We don’t do God’s work in the world; we simply participate in God’s work in the world that is already underway. … He’s always at work everywhere” (p. 162).

As if the kingdom-now theology, replacement theology, universalistic message, and new missiology were not enough, Erre presents to the reader a case for panentheism (God in all things). Given the fact that he includes Richard Rohr in his list of those he resonates with, this is no surprise. Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. His spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ) who believes in pantheism (God is all) and panentheism (God in all). Rohr wrote the foreword to a 2007 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.

In Death by Church, in Erre’s presentation of panentheism, Erre quotes Madeleine L’Engle: “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation” (p. 159). What she is saying here is that God (the sacred) can be found in everything (the secular). In that line of thinking, Erre himself says that his new kingdom “dismantles the sacred/secular distinction” and “all things are given over to God–including those things formerly thought to be secular or unspiritual” He adds: “Confessional worship … seeks to see everything as having been made to reflect the glory of God. … we reawaken to the possibilities of redemption in all areas of life” (pp. 158). This is the same theology as Sue Monk Kidd (see ATOD, p. 134). This concept reflects classic panentheism–God is in all things. Keep in mind, that there is a continuity of the theme that God is in everything with many of the figures that Erre turns to in his book. Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, and John Dominic Crossan are four who hold to this view and are referenced in Death by Church. Borg is one of the leading champions of panentheisism of mainline Christianity, as is Brian McLaren through the emerging church. Rob Bell, who resonates with Marcus Borg, is also referenced in Death by Church. We want to reiterate here, Erre is not just referencing these figures–he has absorbed their theology!

In an emergent church setting, Erre’s book would fit in well. But unfortunately, he is scheduled to speak at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa on May 29th at the Movement 2009 event as the featured speaker. From all that Calvary Chapel has stood for and represented over the last three plus decades, Erre’s spirituality does not line up with Calvary Chapel. Even if Erre doesn’t talk about these topics at the Movement 2009, to welcome him at a Calvary Chapel church (the mother church of Calvary Chapel, no less) is sending out a message far and wide that emerging spirituality is now acceptable and legitimate. Yet, Calvary Chapel founder Pastor Chuck Smith has made several strong statements over the past few years denouncing the spirituality of the emerging church. We hope and pray that he and other Calvary Chapel pastors will realize that many believers, from many different denominational backgrounds are watching and waiting and hoping that Calvary Chapel will stand firm in the faith and reject firmly, once and for all, these unbiblical teachings … no matter the cost. No Bible-believing church should give a platform to those who espouse these views. Having Mike Erre speak at Calvary Chapel would be tantamount to having Marcus Borg or Richard Rohr speaking there.

We close with this. It’s vital to understand that spiritual deception can sound very Christian. That is how deception works. Ray Yungen has given a solemn warning to this effect when he comments on occultist Alice Bailey’s prediction of what her movement (the New Age) would do and how it would accomplish “world illumination”:

In light of the many who will be coming in Christ’s name, I believe the Alice Bailey prophecies can provide further insight into what the apostle Paul called in II Thessalonians the falling away. Bailey eagerly foretold of what she termed “the regeneration of the churches.” Her rationale for this was obvious:

The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished.

In other words, instead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness! The various churches would still have their outer trappings of Christianity and still use much of the same lingo. If asked certain questions about traditional Christian doctrine, the same answers would be given. But it would all be on the outside; on the inside a contemplative [emerging] spirituality would be drawing in those open to it.6

1. From Disclaimer in Death by Church at beginning of book.
2. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic of Baker Publishing Group, 2005), p. 132. (This book cites Brian McLaren on back cover).
3. One source told us that Burke may no longer be on staff at RockHarbor.
4. Roger Oakland in Faith Undone (chapter 2), quoting Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, 1988, p. 5.
5. See “Enlightened Race” by Caryl Matrisiciana from Out of India.
6. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, LLC, 2nd ed., 2006), p. 123.

Print Friendly

Panel votes for probe of ‘extremist’ report

Democrats joined Republicans on a key House panel Tuesday in voting for a formal inquiry into the development and distribution of a contentious Homeland Security Department report that described military veterans as possible recruits for extremists.

In a rare bipartisan move, the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously approved a resolution of inquiry that calls for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to turn over all documents used to draft the report “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”

“When this DHS-produced assessment first surfaced in April, like many Americans, I had issues with its content,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and committee chairman.

“Certainly its definition of ‘right-wing extremism,’ which did not clarify that extremist violence was the department’s true focus, raised considerable concern,” Mr. Thompson said. “So did the suggestion that returning war veterans posed a potential threat to the homeland.” Click here to read this entire article.


‘Extremism’ report ‘tip of the iceberg’

Homeland Security Pulls Report on “Right-Winged Extremists” and Vets

Print Friendly

MOVE OVER PASTORS – “Spiritual Director”: A New Gift from an Ancient Tree

by Larry DeBruyn
Guarding His Flock Ministries

Regardless of what you might think of the operation of spiritual gifts–whether all of them, some of them, or none of them are operative today–we should be aware of the new spiritual gift on the block: the gift of “spiritual director.” As one spiritual director remarks, “I continue to be amazed at the richness of this gift to the church, whether it is experienced individually or in groups.”[1] But just what is this gift?

Alice Fryling says that, “Spiritual direction is a way of companioning people as they seek to look closely, through the eyes of their hearts, at the guidance and transforming work of God in their lives.”[2]

Spiritual director appears to mimic the role of an eastern religious guru who tries to affect the spirituality of others in either one-on-one or small group settings. As Fryling states, “People throughout the Christian church, including those of an evangelical orientation, are experiencing again the gifts that God gives to his people through the loving listening and the gentle guidance of spiritual directors.”[3] So what is the Bible believing Christian to think of this so-called gift of spiritual director?

We should know first of all, that among the lists of gifts in the New Testament (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-10), there is no spiritual gift of spiritual director.

Second, the central gifts for the church’s edification are those of “teacher” and “pastor-teacher.” The risen and ascended Christ gave these gifts to the body of Christ so that it might come to, “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-14). The exercise of these gifts is consistent with the example of Jesus. In the gospels, He was primarily known as, “Teacher” (Matthew 8:19). Too, Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples via a two-fold process of “baptizing” and “teaching” them (Matthew 28:19-20). According to Paul’s ministry, the exercise of “the gift of teacher” is consistent with not only Paul’s example, but also with his exhortation to Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2). As distributed by the sovereign Spirit of the ascended and glorified Christ, the spiritual gift designed to bring maturity and unity to the local church is “pastor-teacher,” not “spiritual director.” That is why Fryling must state that, “spiritual direction groups” are an “exciting new branch from an ancient tree . . . a practice that began in the early years of Christianity when people followed the desert mothers and fathers out to the wilderness to ask them how to know God.”[4] There is no gift of “spiritual director” which is sourced in the Bible and bestowed by the Spirit of the Living Christ.

What is important to the church is not that people, in one-on-one, or in small group sessions, listen to spiritual directors and vice versa–though sharing fellowships have their place in the local church–but that people listen to God, and the emphasis upon listening to one another does not qualify as listening to God, for we are neither God nor gods. As the Lord said to His people through the psalmist, “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, / That Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psalm 81:13) One OT scholar remarks, “To listen . . . has the double force in Hebrew which it sometimes has in English: to pay attention and to obey. So this saying is close to the famous words of Samuel, ‘to obey (lit. to listen) is better than sacrifice’.”[5]

This business of “spiritual direction” resembles the experience I once had in a T-group (i.e., sensitivity training) as a young teacher in a progressive school district where I worked in the late 60s. A doctor from a major mid-western university was my group’s “director.” The modus operandi of the group was that, “the learners [listeners?] use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves [and] . . . others . . . The goal was to change the standards, attitudes and behavior of individuals.”[6]

I fear that the gift of so-called spiritual director is just another guru-gimmick which sources spirituality in religious opinions, teachings, and practices that are utterly foreign to Holy Scripture, and such a source of spirituality will not promote the unity of faith amongst believers, as does the legitimate gift of pastor-teacher, but a diversity of beliefs revealing that all the spiritual directors and listeners are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

For this usurping of the ministry of pastor-teacher by spiritual directors in local churches, pastors are to blame. By allowing methods to trump the message, they created the spiritual vacuum into which spiritual directors have moved in, and instead of being unified, Christians will become increasingly diversified (and apostate) as pan-evangelicalism, under the tutelage of spiritual directors, bows before the mysticism of the postmodern culture.

Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Click here for source and links.


[1] Emphasis mine, Alice Fryling, “A First Look at Spiritual Direction Groups,” Small Groups.com Posted 5/11/09 (http://smallgroups.com/articles/2009/firstlookspiritualdirectiongroups.html).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance (Downers Grove: InterVarsity? Press, 1976) 53.

[6] “T-groups,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-groups

Information on Spiritual Formation

Something about Spiritual Direction

Print Friendly

SPECIAL REPORT: Calvary Chapel Termination Has Profound Implications

Lighthouse Trails regrets to report that on May 5th, Paul Smith, brother of Chuck Smith (the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement), was fired from his position in the Calvary Chapel (CCOF) organization during an unscheduled meeting that day. The motion to fire Paul Smith was made by board member Roger Wing and seconded by Chuck Smith’s son-in-law, Brian Broderson. Other board members affirmed the motion, and Paul Smith was dismissed.

For some time now Paul Smith, who has been in full-time ministry since 1951, has been putting forth tireless efforts to help keep contemplative and emerging spirituality out of the Calvary Chapel movement. At times, this caused conflict with other Calvary Chapel figures who did not resonate with these efforts. This Lighthouse Trails report is being presented because of recent statements such as the following that give a biased view of Paul Smith’s role at Calvary Chapel:

Smith’s desire to codify and enforce not only the “Distinctives,” but positions on such matters as “The Shack” and secondary doctrinal issues was at odds with other people in leadership and that eventually cost him his job. Smith was working out of a deep desire to see his brothers legacy remain intact and define what was and wasn’t “Calvary Chapel.” While I think his motives were pure they also brought a sense of restriction and censorship to many in the movement. (from a Reformed/Calvinist pastor, formerly a Calvary Chapel pastor, who runs a blog called Phoenix Preacher)

Comments made on that site suggesting that Paul Smith’s firing was warranted have prompted this Lighthouse Trails report. This is the story behind the story.

On May 2nd of 2006, Lighthouse Trails was contacted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous who explained that a book written by Chuck Smith Senior contained quotes by and references to contemplative and emerging figures. In our efforts to expose the contemplative/emerging movement, Lighthouse Trails reviewed the book then issued an article titled, “What Happened to the Calvary Chapel Book, When Storms Come?.” The article stated that Chuck Smith’s book When Storms Come contained quotes by and references to contemplative Catholic mystic Anthony DeMello, for one. DeMello is discussed in Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing. De Mello wrote the contemplative classic called Sadhana: A Way to God and in that book he says:

To silence the mind is an extremely difficult task. How hard it is to keep the mind from thinking, thinking, thinking, forever thinking, forever producing thoughts in a never-ending stream. Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: one thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts that crowd into your mind. One thought, one image, one phrase or sentence or word that your mind can be made to fasten on. (A Time of Departing, p. 75).

Prior to this first article, Lighthouse Trails had begun a working relationship with Roger Oakland who had been involved with the Calvary Chapel movement (teaching and evangelizing) for about twenty five years. We were in the early stages of contracting with Roger Oakland for a book on the emerging church.

On May 18th, Chuck Smith emailed Lighthouse Trails and stated:

[I have] prepared a position paper to be distributed to the Calvary Chapel pastors on the subject of the Emergent Church and its many divergent and unscriptural theological positions that trouble me greatly.

Chuck Smith also thanked Lighthouse Trails for sending him a copy of A Time of Departing, which he said he “read with interest,” then added “[A Time of Departing] resonates with the concerns that I personally have concerning the direction that many ministries seem to be taking in their endeavor to unify all faiths. I do believe that straight is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and as Jesus said, He is that way, He is the truth, and the life, and no man can come to the Father but by Him.”

Three days later, we reported that Calvary Chapel released a Position Paper, denouncing mystical practices (i.e., contemplative prayer) and the emerging church. A second Lighthouse Trails article discussed this move initiated by Chuck Smith Sr:

This weekend, a position paper addressed to pastors was posted on the Calvary Chapel website. The paper indicates that Calvary Chapel is taking a stand against contemplative spirituality and the emerging church and decrees that the title Calvary Chapel not be attached to such movements.

In the Position Paper, Calvary Chapel pastors were told not to use the Calvary Chapel title on their church name if they were going to go in the contemplative/emerging direction. On May 25, 2006, Lighthouse Trails released a follow-up article titled, “Calvary Chapel May Face Challenge in Upholding Position Paper”. In the article, we quoted Roger Oakland regarding the Position Paper:

Calvary Chapel is at a critical point in the history of the movement. If clear correction is made, then the movement will go on and become a lighthouse in these last days. If nothing more happens than a written statement, and pastors and churches are permitted to carry the name Calvary Chapel but embrace contemplative, purpose driven, seeker friendly market driven ideas, the movement will break into various segments. There are many Calvary Chapel pastors who are asking for this kind of clear cut direction and want Calvary Chapel to remain what it once was.

On June 3, 2006, in our article titled, “Calvary Chapel May Set Precedent at This Week’s Pastors Conference”, we reported that Chuck Smith Jr, then pastor of Calvary Chapel Capo Beach, was officially no longer part of the Calvary Chapel movement because of his contemplative/emerging affinities. It appeared that Calvary Chapel was going to stand strong on their commitment to maintain biblical integrity, even though this was a very painful situation for family members. At that time, Paul Smith expressed his deep sadness at his nephew’s decision to embrace contemplative/emerging spirituality. Our article also stated:

Calvary Chapel may be the first large ministry that has been directly influenced to actually denounce the false teachings of these movements. If Calvary Chapel stands firm on defending the gospel message and rejecting these heretical doctrines, it may be setting a precedent for other Christian ministries to do likewise. With organizations such as Purpose Driven, Zondervan, NavPress publishers, Willow Creek and Renovare all promoting contemplative spirituality and with many other ministries appearing to head that way, it is becoming less and less popular to do what Calvary Chapel has done. But it is a time in history when compromising the integrity of the gospel could actually help to unfold the greatest spiritual deception Christianity has ever seen.

Then on June 16, 2006, we issued a short notice titled “Calvary Chapel Rejects Purpose Driven and Emerging Spirituality”. In an unexpected move, Calvary Chapel came out publicly against the Purpose Driven movement. Our posting stated:

This week a notice was placed on the Calvary Chapel Distribution website recalling Chuck Smith Sr’s book, When Storms Come (which had been tampered with). The notice (no longer online) also stated: “The teaching and positions of Rick Warren have come into conflict with us at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Chuck has directed us to discontinue this product effective immediately.”

Shortly thereafter, Calvary Distribution (the resource arm of Calvary Chapel) removed all Purpose Driven materials from their resource database. In the meantime, Roger Oakland was beginning to receive increased criticism for his stand against Purpose Driven and the emerging church. In a July 2006 article, he explained some of his concerns in an article titled, “Calvary Chapel and Purpose Driven”. He told what he believed to be the main reasons why Calvary Chapel and Purpose Driven do not resonate with each other:

Why did Calvary Distribution remove Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven books and related materials from their distribution? I believe these four reasons I have discussed are reasonable and a valid answer to that question:

Differences in Eschatology

Differences with regard to the Emerging Church

Differences with regard to contemplative prayer and mysticism

Differences with regard to church growth principles and beliefs.

Christianity has always been made up of strong leaders who take different positions. In this case, we see two well-known contemporary leaders going in two different directions. I also know that many Calvary Chapel pastors approved the decision and applauded Calvary Distribution when the Rick Warren materials were no longer being distributed.

Because there are some Calvary pastors who strongly disagree with this decision, it is very possible that in the future there will be a split of the Calvary Chapel movement. The pressures on young pastors today to conform to the current trends for the sake of having a successful big church are ever increasing.

Over the next several months, Roger Oakland wrote Faith Undone: the emerging church–a new reformation or an end-time deception. The book was released in the summer of 2007 and documents many irrefutable connections between some of today’s most popular and influential proclaiming-Christian leaders: Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Bob Buford, Peter Drucker, Richard Foster, Bill Hybels, Leith Anderson, and others. It also reveals the financial backing that was behind the birth of the current emerging church movement, showing that the movement wasn’t just the “discontent grumblings of young people looking for answers” (back cover) but entailed a far more structured effort to bring about a new mystical spirituality that would ultimately reject the very core of the Bible’s main tenets. Because the book connected dots between the emerging church and highly regarded leaders, needless to say it rocked the boat.

Over the next few months after Faith Undone was released, Roger Oakland spoke in different locations around the world, warning believers about the new spirituality that had entered the Christian church. Then two days after he posted an article called Icabod, Roger was promptly removed from Calvary Chapel’s radio network/station, KWVE. In our article “Roger Oakland Removed from Calvary Chapel Radio”, we stated:

Lighthouse Trails contacted KWVE on November 19th [2007] to confirm the removal [of Roger Oakland] and to find out the reason this took place. Richard McIntosh, KWVE station manager, confirmed the removal and told Lighthouse Trails that while he knew the reason, he would not comment.

During this time period, Roger Oakland and Lighthouse Trails were receiving angry and threatening phone calls and emails by unidentified persons. Nevertheless, we knew we must stay the course.

While the long-time relationship between Roger Oakland and Calvary Chapel became highly strained, in a meeting between Roger Oakland and Chuck Smith, Pastor Smith affirmed his support of Roger Oakland and his ministry. It should be noted too that on a number of occasions, Chuck Smith has expressed his support for the work at Lighthouse Trails. And to our knowledge, he has never reneged on his original statements to keep contemplative/emerging/Purpose Driven out of the Calvary Chapel movement. In fact, Chuck Smith invited former New Age follower-turned-Christian Warren Smith to speak at the 2008 Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors Conference in Murrieta, California. Warren Smith delivered a powerful exhortation to pastors on June 5th, 2008, encouraging Calvary Chapel pastors to stand during these times of great spiritual deception that the Bible warns will take place in the last days.1 A large number of the 800 pastors in attendance gave Warren Smith a standing ovation, indicating that many Calvary Chapel pastors resonate with Warren Smith’s message, which is the same message as Roger Oakland, Ray Yungen, and Lighthouse Trails.

But as with most denominations and Christian organizations, there are indications that contemplative/emergent/Purpose Driven is continuing to influence the Calvary Chapel movement contrary to the efforts and statements of Chuck Smith in 2006. For instance, Calvary Chapel speaker Gayle Erwin has come out strong in support of the New Age sympathizing book, The Shack. Erwin’s endorsement for William Paul Young’s New York Times best-seller sits on The Shack website, and says:

Riveting, with twists that defy your expectations while teaching powerful theological lessons without patronizing. I was crying by page 100. You cannot read it without your heart becoming involved. [emphasis added]

Even though a statement was issued by Calvary Chapel denouncing The Shack, which is reported in our article “New Age Similarities, Popularity Continues, and Calvary Chapel Gives Official Statement” , Gayle Erwin continues speaking at Calvary Chapel churches today.

In the summer of 2008, Lighthouse Trails issued a controversial article titled, “Greg Laurie Connects Purpose Driven to a Move of God – Gives Financial Support”. Laurie, one of the most popular Calvary Chapel pastors had given financial support to Rick Warren’s New York crusade, and at the same time, called the Purpose Driven movement a move of God. This was disheartening for those who hoped that Calvary Chapel was truly going to stand strong against the heretical teachings of the day. Later, Greg Laurie’s ministry issued a statement denying that they had financially supported the crusade, but Lighthouse Trails spoke with crusade organizers who had not only placed the information on their website but confirmed it to us over the phone. In September 2008, we issued a follow-up report: Warren, Blanchard, Hybels, Laurie, Buford – Launching New York Leadership Center.

Concerns over the direction that the Calvary Chapel movement may go after Chuck Smith is no longer heading the organization have continued to grow. And now with Paul Smith, who strongly advocated and supported his brother’s hopes of having a NON-contemplative/emerging/Purpose Driven movement, those concerns are mounting. Just two weeks ago, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (home church of Chuck Smith Sr.) hosted a Pure Worship Conference, which included worship leaders from the nearby Rock Harbor church. Rock Harbor has shown signs that it is being significantly influenced by the emerging church, including having had their youth group study New Age sympathizer Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis , for three weeks. A few months ago, Rock Harbor held a meeting due to concerns by congregants as to whether they were going emergent or not. Approximately 700 people showed up!

A second event is scheduled between Rock Harbor and Calvary Chapel at the end of May, Movement 2009. The conference will take place at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and will feature Rock Harbor’s teaching pastor Mike Erre and worship team. Mike Erre is the author of a new book, Death by Church: Rescuing Jesus from His Followers; Recapturing God’s Hope for His People. The book is filled with kingdom-now theology and numerous favorable references to and quotes by people like Brian McLaren, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative, emerging figures. Based on this book alone, it is accurate to say that Erre has all the earmarks of an emerging church pastor. In Erre’s 2008 book, Why Guys Need God, there he quotes and references a number of contemplative mystic-proponents: Richard Rohr, Larry Crabb, Pete Scazzero, Rob Bell, and others. It is very clear by Erre’s remarks about Richard Rohr (whom he references over a half a dozen times in the book) that he esteems him highly. And yet Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ) who believes in pantheism and panentheism. Rohr wrote the foreword to a 2007 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, Christianity) worship the same God. How ironic that Paul Smith’s firing is sandwiched between two Rock Harbor events at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Members at that church should be very, very concerned.

Recently we reported on Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s high school in which a teacher there asked his class to read, review, and study How to Stay Christian in College written by Protestant-turned-Catholic J. Budziszewski . The book has references [advertisements] in the back of some editions to mystic emergent Tony Jones, and Budziszewski himself is a proponent of contemplative prayer practices. Our article “Concerned Family Asks Legitimate Questions of Christian Leaders” illustrates what many families are going through in trying to protect their children and teens from spiritual deception. Christian parents must realize that the souls of their youth are at stake.

Paul Smith came on board to Calvary Chapel about four years ago to help with what could possibly be a sinking ship. Paul believed that the only answer for the movement was to hold to the basic tenets of biblical Christianity. As he learned of the various emerging/contemplative/Purpose Driven influences pouring into Calvary Chapel, he often spoke up but was also often received with resistance–until last Tuesday, when an impromptu meeting in the middle of the day brought his efforts to a halt.

When we spoke with Paul Smith this week, he was packing his things, preparing to leave Calvary Chapel. At approximately 80 years old, his mind sharp and his focus straightforward, Paul isn’t sure where he will go from here. He isn’t sure of the future of Calvary Chapel anymore either. But he is sure of this – the One whom He seeks to serve is faithful and will in these last days draw a line in the sand and ask every true believer to step on the side of biblical truth. Paul sent us an email a few days after his dismissal. We asked him if we could post part of it, and he agreed:

I have enjoyed serving our Calvary Chapel pastors through Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship. Calvary Chapel is a wonderful and surprising work of God. It has been used by God to hold fast to simply teaching the Word of God, book-by-book and verse-by-verse, the whole counsel of God…. It is my prayer that we hold fast to the sufficiency of the Word of God and the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit to guide this blessed ministry of God. My heart’s desire is to follow the way of my Lord Jesus Christ. I like what the prophet Isaiah and David have to say about the true Judge who would come and dwell among us and His method and His heart in righteous judgment.

Isa 11:1-5: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD ; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD : and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

This situation with Calvary Chapel is not isolated. Nearly every evangelical denomination and organization of any size in North America is going in this same direction to one degree or another. One key factor in why this is happening so rapidly is that Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries are heavily saturated with contemplative/emerging spirituality. Biola University, for instance, where many Calvary Chapel pastors have attended and graduated, is deeply involved in this “new spirituality.”

The spirituality of the desert fathers has gotten a grip on the current theological thought and practice like no one could have predicted just a few years ago, thanks largely in part to the emerging church and the work of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. Remember, mysticism is what gives the emerging church its momentum. Holistic doctor and author Dr. Rick Levy revealed that in 2008 17 million Americans were practicing meditation (eastern-style). That number is up from 10 million in 2003. At that rate, in another five years it will probably be somewhere between 20 and 25 million. There is no doubt that this surge of mysticism will have a profound effect on virtually every North American family. This statistic is sobering when you consider what Richard Kirby observed:

The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics; it is no accident that both traditions use the same word for the highest reaches of their respective activities: contemplation. (Mission of Mysticism, p. 7)

Our prayer at Lighthouse Trails is that everyone involved in this issue would take that statement seriously. Mysticism (i.e., the occult) is overtaking all segments of society, and this means that the world is falling under the spell of sorceries (magical arts) that according to the book of Revelation will deceive all nations (Revelation 18:23).

We close with this: In Alan Jones’ book, Reimagining Christianity, he talks about a mystical spirituality in which not only all the world’s religions will be united but all humanity will be united whether religious or not. On the back cover of Jones’ book, Brian McLaren claims that this view “stimulates” and “encourages” him “deeply” and that Christianity is moving away from “dogma” (doctrine) toward “authentic spirituality” (mysticism).

With the termination of Paul Smith and the embracing of and teaming up with an emerging church, is this “authentic spirituality” the direction that Calvary Chapel is going to go? The answer to that question is becoming clearer all the time.

“Brian McLaren’s Hope for the Future – The Minds of Your Grandchildren”

Print Friendly

Summer is Coming: Use Caution When Choosing Kids Camp or Vacation Bible School

If you are planning on sending your child(ren) to kid’s summer camp or Vacation Bible School this summer, please use caution and discernment. Find out if the program you are looking at is going to be including a spiritual formation program and if so, you should avoid such programs. Also be careful about receiving advice or recommendations regarding kid’s summer camps or Vacation Bible School from contemplative-promoting organizations, such as Awanas. In their book, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation, one of the authors (Trisha Graves, p. 178) talks favorably about “Vacation Bible School” at Mariners Church in Irvine California, saying that “the gospel is presented” during Vacation Bible School at Mariners. But Mariners is a church with contemplative/emerging propensities. One example of this is the upcoming Mariner’s evening with contemplative proponent John Eldredge. And last year, in July of 2008, Mariners Church hosted an evening with the New Age sympathizing book The Shack author William Paul Young. 1 In addition, Mariners Church is tied in with Metamorpha. Mariners Julie Barios is part of the Student Ministries Department doing pastoral care and spiritual direction at Mariners and is one of Metamorpha’s “Spiritual Directors.” 2 Metamorpha was the subject of a Lighthouse Trails article because the organization, run by Lee Strobel’s son, is very pro-contemplative touting Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and other mystics and emerging figures.3 This is just one example of why parents must use care when choosing a camp or Vacation Bible School this summer.

Print Friendly


Written by Gary Gilley

Ray Yungen has written a very valuable book exposing the encroachment of New Age mysticism upon the evangelical church. Through the porthole of “contemplative prayer” numerous Christian leaders (e.g. Richard Foster, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, etc.) are calling us back to the desert Catholic mystics of the Middle Ages for a deeper level of spirituality. These leaders seem unaware or unconcerned that the Catholic mystics drew deeply from the well of Eastern Mysticism. As a result, unsuspecting Christians are being served a casserole of Eastern Mysticism, occultism and mystical Christianity all under the guise of deeper spiritual living and prayer.

Contemplative prayer is not biblical prayer, no matter how spiritual it may sound. Contemplative prayer, rather, is turning our minds off–putting it into neutral, in order to experience silence, at which point we somehow encounter God. All New Agers, occultist and Eastern Mystics teach this type of praying, along with certain individuals within Christianity, both in the past and now. But the Scriptures teach no such prayer methodology. Paul said, “I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also” (I Corinthians 14:15). He does not say that he will pray with the spirit or the mind, but with the spirit and the mind. Throwing our minds out of gear, and trusting God to fill it with whatever He desires, not only has no biblical warrant but is an open invitation to spiritual deception.

Yungen has done his homework. He documents and traces the source of this modern movement within evangelicalism to people like Thomas Merton and Alice Bailey, who greatly influenced men such as Foster and Manning, who in turn are influencing ministries such as Youth Specialties and leaders such as Larry Crabb, who in turn are infiltrating the Christian ranks. This New Age form of Christianity is not coming, it is here, and we need to be aware of the dangers.

Every Christian leader should read this book. Click here for source material.

For more information on A Time of Departing, click here.

Print Friendly

Everything is Not Spiritual

by Larry DeBruyn

A Critique of Rob Bell’s Pan-Spiritual Worldview

“Some have wandered away from . . . a sincere faith and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:5-7)

Among emergent church leaders there exists a growing trend to merge the secular with the sacred, to mingle the unspiritual and the spiritual. Emergent reality is viewed to be a monistic whole. For example, Rob Bell states that, “everyone is spiritual.” He says,

Maybe you’ve heard somebody say, “I’m just not into spiritual things.” Are you . . . are you a human being? Yea! Too late! The issue is not whether you’re a spiritual being, or you have a spirituality. The issue is whether your eyes are open and you’re aware of it. You cannot deny what is central to your make-up as a human being. In the Hebrew language there is no word for spiritual. If you would have said to Jesus, “Jesus, how’s your spiritual life?” What? What do you mean? Because to label one area spiritual is to label areas not spiritual. It’s absolutely foreign to the world of the Scriptures. It’s absolutely foreign to the worldview of Jesus. The assumption is that you are a fusion of two realms. And a human being occupies a totally unique place in the universe . . . Everything we do, we do as an integrated being–one-hundred percent physical, one-hundred percent spiritual.

To prove his everything/everyone-is-spiritual templet, Bell quotes Colossians 3:17 where Paul states, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . .” He then concludes,

What were they saying? Every act is a spiritual act. It’s whether or not you’re aware of the implications of what you’re doing. [1]

While in contrast to the Greek language (adjective, pneumatikos), there is no Hebrew word “spiritual” per se, that does not mean that the concept of it is foreign to the Old Testament. Paul wrote of the Exodus Israelites:

“Moreover brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” (Emphasis Mine, 1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

Are we also prepared to say that like Abraham and David, Saul and other of Israel’s and Judah’s wicked kings were spiritual, but just didn’t know it? Are we to think that the idolatrous Israelites were spiritual in a Godward way (See Exodus 32:1.), and just didn’t know it?

Bell’s sweeping generalizations, especially from the perspective of the New Covenant, are not true. Jesus did not affirm a monistic pan-spiritual worldview. He told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The apostle Paul also distinguished between a “natural man” and a “spiritual man,” between persons who have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, and those who do not (1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:9). Therefore, he told the Corinthians that, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Paul contrasted that person to the spiritual individual who “appraises all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15). Paul also states that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7; Read 8:5-9; Compare Romans 7:14.). He contrasted “the deeds of the flesh” with “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-24). Not everyone and not everything everyone does is spiritual.

In contrast to what Bell confidently affirms, pan-spirituality is not the scriptural worldview, and if such an assumption is scripturally and spiritually inaccurate, then so too are the interpretations, implications and applications arising out of it. This is why John admonished believers, “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Click here for links and source.

[1] Transcribed from “Rob Bell: Everything is Spiritual,” YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Poi3imQkQsQ.

Print Friendly

Lighthouse Trails RSS Feed

November 2014
« Oct