Note: The following article is based on actual facts, but the name has been changed to protect the innocent.
In September of 2008, a Christian woman (a wife and mother) stumbled across Lighthouse Trails Research website when she and her husband became concerned about certain things happening in the large church they had been attending for several years, including plans to build a labyrinth and her husband being taught a repetitive breath prayer at a men’s prayer breakfast. Prior to that day, Susan had not heard the term contemplative spirituality nor did she know the meaning of “emerging church.” But on that particular day, Susan learned that she and her husband and her teenage sons were attending a church that had signs that they may be going emerging. She was shocked.
During the following several weeks, Susan scoured the Internet for documentation and information on this “new” spirituality that had apparently come into her own church. She also learned that her teenage sons’ youth group had been promoting emerging church figures–and had already done a three-week course on Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis (Bell had spoken at the church as well). It is Rob Bell who tells Velvet Elvis readers to study New Age mystic Ken Wilber for three months for a “mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity [panentheism (God in all) and pantheism (all is God)]” (p.192 V.E.). Ken Wilber promotes all varieties of mysticism: tantra, yoga, kundalini, karma meditation, sexual transformation through mysticism, etc. 1 And on the YouTube account associated with Wilber (which he openly links to from his main site) are many offensive videos, including one by a rapper who talks about raping girls from ages 1-10. Unspeakable! For any Christian church or school to use Rob Bell’s materials, when he clearly resonates with Ken Wilber is a breach of faith. Many Velvet Elvis readers are young people. When they read Bell encouraging them to turn to Wilber, they could end up on Wilber’s website and even the YouTube videos, not to mention Wilber’s New Age books.
When Susan and her husband confronted their church’s leadership about their embracing of certain emerging church leaders, the leadership denied these allegations. Emerging church links (such as The Ooze) that were posted on the church website were hastily removed, but with no public disclaimer or explanation. And even though The Ooze link was removed, Spencer Burke, The Ooze’s founder, states currently on his site that he “serves” at that church. Roger Oakland quotes Burke in Faith Undone:
I stopped reading from the approved evangelical reading list and began to distance myself from the evangelical agenda. I discovered new authors and new voices at the bookstore–Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and St. Teresa of Avila. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Contemplative spirituality seemed to open up a whole new way for me to understand and experience God. I was deeply moved by works like The Cloud of Unknowing, The Dark Night of the Soul and the Early Writings of the Desert Fathers.2
It seemed to Susan that the church removing certain links was merely a damage-control tactic to avoid public scrutiny. And even though some links were removed, other troubling ones remained and do so to this day. One of those is Beliefnet.com, an extremely popular, high-traffic website that services all religions. Strangely, Susan’s “evangelical church” was linking directly to Beliefnet.com’s Catholic section. This, of course, would be in line with contemplative spirituality that was pioneered into the evangelical church by Catholic monks (Merton, Keating, Pennington). But strange, because Susan’s church was denying being contemplative.
Beliefnet.com has an array of departments that represent every religious tradition under the sun. Some of the departments include: A Course in Miracles, Wicca, New Thought, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist and so on. There is even information on warlocks and an article on the Pagan and Earth-Based section titled “Welcome Your Baby: Pagan Traditions.” Another section is by a homosexual warlock. Banners flash throughout the site, beckoning visitors to join particular groups. And the Christianity section is inundated with eastern-mysticism sympathizing figures like Marcus Borg, Tony Jones, and suggestions for practicing eastern-style meditation. Clearly, Beliefnet.com is not a website that a biblical church would point their congregants to. Author and researcher Ray Yungen, in hearing about the church linking to Beliefnet.com, said: “It has a buffet-style approach to spirituality. In other words, whatever suits your taste–so typical of the emerging church view.”
Other links that remained on Susan’s church website are Discipleship Journal and SoJourners Magazine, both heavy proponents of contemplative/emerging spirituality.
As Susan learned the nature of this “new spirituality,” she became increasingly alarmed. And as she began talking about it with the leadership at her church, it became apparent to her that this was going to be no small matter, and that her concerns were not going to be welcomed by her church’s pastors and elders. After several agonizing weeks of discussion, prayer, and turmoil, Susan and her husband sadly left their church. They knew they could not, in good conscience, leave their sons (and themselves) in harm’s way.
But for Susan, the battle was only just beginning. One of her son’s was scheduled to go on a missions trip to Europe with his Christian high school group. But at a parent’s meeting, when Susan asked one of the leaders if the students would be attending any of the “boiler rooms” (Catholic-oriented contemplative “prayer” rooms) when they were in the UK, the leader curtly replied, “We’ll go where ever the Lord leads.” Susan thought perhaps he did not know what the boiler rooms were, but his sharp answer worried her. By this time in Susan’s research, she had learned that the UK boiler rooms, started by mystic proponent Pete Greig (Red Moon Rising) were not something she wanted her young son to take part in. And Susan suspected that the reason for the swift dismissal of her question at the parent’s meeting was because she was becoming known as a trouble-making parent who didn’t understand the wave of the future for Christianity.
Susan and her husband were still going to allow their son to go on the UK trip. After all, his school was a Calvary Chapel high school. But last week something happened that changed all that. Susan learned that her son’s class was asked to read a book titled How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski. The students were to do a book report on the book, and then the class would study it in the following weeks.
Susan made a quick call to Lighthouse Trails and asked what we knew about this author. We had not heard of him, but quickly learned that J. Budziszewski (pronounced Boo-jee-shef-ski) was an author and professor who had converted in 2004 from Protestantism to Catholicism. We also learned he was a proponent of contemplative practices. He is a featured professor on contemplative-promoting Focus on the Family’s TrueU.org online university, telling students to practice lectio divina as a form of meditation.3
It seemed quite ironic that someone who had left the Christian faith to follow contemplative Catholicism wrote a book to instruct high school students how to remain Christian while in college, when he had converted away from evangelical Christianity. And knowing that a Calvary Chapel high school was using this book was troubling. Interestingly, the first person Budziszewski quotes in How to Stay Christian in College is Lutheran-turned-Catholic priest, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who many would consider a friend in the emergent/Catholic conversation.
Lighthouse Trails quickly obtained a copy of How to Stay Christian in College, and much to our dismay saw full page advertisements at the back of the book for books by Tony Jones and Eugene Peterson. We could understand why Budziszewski’s publisher would place ads for Jones, a major advocate for mystical practices, in the back of Budziszewski’s book. But we could not understand how Calvary Chapel could bring this into their school.
Thinking that perhaps Calvary Chapel was not aware of Budziszewski’s 2004 conversion and his promotion of contemplative prayer practices, Lighthouse Trails, on behalf of Susan’s family, contacted the Calvary Chapel high school. The vice-principal of the school politely listened to our concerns and said he would get back with us very soon. We told him that we felt compelled to issue a warning about the matter but said we would wait until we heard back from him. We told him we were concerned for Susan’s son as well as the other students, who had been handed this book just prior to graduating and heading off to college. We said we felt this situation was urgent and we hoped to hear from him that the book had been pulled.
Several days passed, and we never did hear back from the school. Yesterday, Susan contacted us after she had a meeting with the vice-principal. She told him, in view of her and her husband’s growing concerns, including the use of Budziszewski’s book and the vagueness about the UK boiler rooms, they could not allow their son to go on the UK trip. She also learned yesterday that Budziszewski’s book was not going to be pulled, and in fact, the vice-principal had been instructed from higher ups “don’t call Lighthouse Trails – let them do their article.”
Needless to say, Susan and her husband have felt a sense of distraughtness that the Christian church is going in this direction, and discernment (or even the desire for it) seems so lacking. Lighthouse Trails has acknowledged in the past that Calvary Chapel’s founder Chuck Smith has made public statements denouncing contemplative mysticism, the emerging church, and the Purpose Driven Movement. He is one of the few leaders in the evangelical church who has made such bold proclamations. Thus, this article is not to condemn Calvary Chapel as a whole. We know there are many Bible-believing Calvary Chapel pastors who are standing strong for the faith. But rather it is to show that deception is often subtle, and Christian leaders cannot give way to it when it is spotted. It doesn’t matter that the school did not call Lighthouse Trails back. We are insignificant. But it does matter, that in spite of legitimate and substantiated concerns, the book was not removed. Below is a heartfelt letter that Susan wrote to us this week. We post it with her permission.
Dear Lighthouse Trails,
We told our son to pray, as he is going to the beach to get some sun–he is off school today.
He seems okay that he is possibly not going to England after all. I believe the leaders have singled him out for some reason. I have told him that he may likely be sent home for some minor infraction, most likely the day before the team goes to the boiler rooms. Good try, not with our son. We know it is because we have challenged the Emergent doctrine that is entering even some Calvary Chapels. What will happen when Chuck Smith dies???
More things become clear to us all the time. This new Calvary Chapel high school is so different than the one we knew with our first two kids. Times are changing; now our senior gets a book by a protestant theologian-turned-Catholic, WHO IN AN ARTICLE PREACHES THE PRACTICE OF “lectio divina” from the desert fathers.
As a family, we reject the mystical, sensual lies, the emptying of the mind in meditation, to put so many other unclean spirits in… No thank you. No meditation, except on the Word of God. The Bible states this will happen in the last days, that there will be a great departing from the faith. This concerns us as we see the YOUTH of today being targeted with false doctrine and mystical practices.
Up at Biola University they now have a Masters Degree program in “Spiritual Formation.” The seminaries are practicing mystical spirituality, even lectio divina, meditation, getting a high from breathing techniques (breath prayers) and entering the alpha state, and the ensuing “HIGH.”
Because of this we have such a heavy heart for the youth of today. We sincerely grieve over the lies and false doctrine that they are being told. The Bible also speaks that not all who say Lord, Lord, will enter the gates of Heaven … Lord, keep our young people safe, as well as our own kids, loved ones, and friends.
What happened to just JESUS?? It seems so simple, and for some unknown reason it does not seem to be enough for so many today.
We support your ministry and the fact that your hearts are so committed to exposing the truth. We choose to follow ONLY the inspired Word of God. We do not give any, and I mean any, credence to all the other “supposed” Christian authors, who do not speak the truth of the Word of God. Because of this, kids today love the physical and emotional HIGH and think that that is God. Lord God please have mercy on us.
We, as you know, have left an O.C. (RH) church that had breath prayers, Rob Bell, were going to build a labyrinth, linked to Emergent leader Spencer Burke, and still links to Beliefnet.com. WHY would a Christian church EVER lead their flock to this site rather than the one true Jesus Christ?
When confronted with this site they said they were going to remove it, like the Spencer Burke site. IT has been a full month, and they have not. Do they want to have their seekers and very vulnerable flock turn to dangerous doctrine?? Do they want their flock of believers to take the belief-net test, and maybe end up in a pagan or occult religion???
How can one of RH pastors state to my husband and I, that after a meeting with Calvary Chapel pastors, that they are on the same page??
We have tried to e-mail Chuck Smith and to have a meeting. He has never answered us. We do not believe that he has ever gotten our messages. Where is Chuck Smith?? The body of Christ needs him right now. Well if you can shed any light on the subject, please do.
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH,
Concerned parents in Orange County
2. Spencer Burke, “From the Third Floor to the Garage,” online chapter from Stories of Emergence published by Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2003, http://www.theooze.com/etrek/spencerburke.cfm.
If there is one person who could be considered the “father” of the present evangelical “spiritual formation” movement, that person is Richard Foster. And in spite of the non-biblical, mystical-promoting foundation of the spiritual formation movement, Foster continues to be touted, promoted, and looked up to by evangelical leaders, pastors, and professors. This article hopes to reveal the underlying nature of Foster’s spirituality and to reject the recommendations of these Christian figures who rather than warning the body of Christ about Foster’s spiritual formation, they point to him as a credible source of spiritual nourishment.
Recently, Christianity Today featured an article written by Richard Foster titled “Spiritual Formation Agenda.” In the article, Foster discusses the progress (and the lack of progress) he feels the church has made in the last thirty years regarding spiritual formation. He says thirty years because that is when he officially began his efforts to bring spiritual formation to the evangelical church through his book, Celebration of Discipline, which has now sold over two million copies and where Foster stated: “[W]e should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer.”1
Foster explains in the CT article:
Thirty years ago, when Celebration of Discipline was first penned, we were faced with two huge tasks: First, we needed to revive the great conversation about the formation of the soul; and second, we needed to incarnate this reality into the daily experience of individual, congregational, and cultural life. Frankly, we have had much greater success with the first task. Christians of all sorts now know about the need for spiritual formation, and look to saints Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant for guidance. (emphasis added)
Foster couldn’t be more right on two accounts: first, Christians of nearly every denomination are embracing “spiritual formation” today, and Lighthouse Trails has been documenting that for several years; and secondly, “spiritual formation” IS indeed connected to “saints Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.”
But who are these “saints” that Foster refers to and what is their spirituality? This is a key and valid question. And Foster himself can answer it. All we have to do is look to his own writings–he has been revealing these saints to the church for over thirty years. And incredibly, the church has bought into it hook, line, and sinker, hands down, no questions asked. Prove of that is abundant and convincing as Lighthouse Trails has often shown.
Two of the best sources to turn to in order to understand Foster’s spirituality are his two books, Spiritual Classics (2000) and Devotional Classics (1990). In each book, Foster features writings from 52 “great devotional writers” or as he has often called them Devotional Masters. In Devotional Classics, Foster features: St. John of the Cross, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Teresa of Avila (who levitated during mystical trances), St. Ignatius of Loyola, and Hildegard of Bingen (called a saint but not actually canonized). The one thing these five all have in common is they were practitioners of mysticism and held to panentheistic (God is in all) views.
In Foster’s two Classics books, he also features several other mystics of this same nature. Some of those include Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Meister Eckhart, John Main, Karl Rahner, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, and Henri Nouwen. (For more information about these individuals, refer to our research site.)
One evening in 1994, Lighthouse Trails author Ray Yungen attended a seminar in Salem, Oregon, in which Richard Foster was speaking. Yungen had not heard much about Foster prior to that time but when a concerned youth pastor asked him to come listen to Foster, Yungen agreed. Prior to the seminar, Yungen read Celebration of Discipline. At that time, Yungen had been studying and researching New Age mysticism for ten years. Yungen describes a brief conversation he had with Foster that evening:
After the seminar ended . . . I approached Foster and politely asked him, “What do you think of the current Catholic contemplative prayer movement?” He appeared visibly uncomfortable with the question, and at first seemed evasive and vague. He then replied, “Well, I don’t know, some good, some bad (mentioning Matthew Fox as an example of the bad).” In defense, he said, “My critics don’t understand there is this tradition within Christianity that goes back centuries.” He then said something that has echoed in my mind ever since that day. He emphatically stated, “Well, Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people!” I realized then Foster had waded deep into Merton’s belief system.2
Yungen began to study Foster in depth after that, and in 1999, he wrote the first edition of A Time of Departing, an expose on the contemplative prayer movement.
In order to understand this mystical movement, one must understand the spirituality of Thomas Merton. Yungen continues:
[I]t is precisely this alignment with Merton that undermines Foster’s claim to being mystically attuned to the God of the Bible. Merton expressed views such as, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”
It is essential to really understand why Merton said things like this in order to understand why the contemplative prayer movement presents such a potential danger to evangelical Christian churches. Merton’s conversion was spiritual, not social or political, as clearly revealed in one of his biographies:
His [Merton's] change of mind with regard to the higher religions was not the result of tedious comparison and contrast or even concerted analysis. It was an outgrowth of his experience with the Absolute [God].
In other words, Merton found Buddhist enlightenment in contemplative prayer.3
Today, 30 years after Richard Foster started his campaign for contemplative formation, he is still aligning himself with Thomas Merton, who actually told New Ager Matthew Fox once that he felt sorry for the hippies who were taking LSD because they could get the same results practicing contemplative prayer.4 In Foster’s upcoming book (April 2009), Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion, Foster devotes an entire six-page section of the book to Thomas Merton. He says that “Merton is captivated by God’s relentless love for the world” (p.81). He acknowledges that Merton, like Foster himself, was influenced by Meister Eckhart and other mystics, as well as occultist Aldous Huxley (Perennial Wisdom, as above, so below). Foster says that Merton “stands as one of the greatest twentieth-century embodiments of spiritual life as a journey” (p. 84). What Foster DOES not tell the reader though in his new book is that Merton believed that God dwelled in all people. He embraced the Sufi (Islamic mystic) as well as the Buddhist view of God, that man, in totality, shares the divine nature, and in essence IS the divine nature, of God. Leonard Sweet, another admirer of Merton, quotes Merton in the preface of his book, Quantum Spirituality:
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are…. If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other…. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth…. This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody.5.
In spite of Richard Foster’s obvious embracing of Merton’s spirituality, evangelical leaders continue to stand by Foster. A case in point: At the upcoming Renovare international conference, The Jesus Way (June 21-24), popular Christian figure, Max Lucado, will be one of the featured speakers. Lucado will be joining Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, and Eugene Peterson (all contemplatives) at the conference. Lucado’s presence at the event is not a total surprise to Lighthouse Trails. Three years ago, we reported that Lucado’s book, Cure for the Common Life, was promoting contemplative spirituality. 3 But most people don’t know that, and he is the very personification of the typical mainstream evangelical pastor, so his aligning with Foster is very significant.
In addition to Lucado’s embracing of Foster, Focus on the Family sells a series by H. B. London that features Richard Foster in a favorable interview. While this too is no surprise to Lighthouse Trails because Focus on the Family resonates with Gary Thomas, who resonates with contemplative spirituality in his books, FOF’s promotion of Richard Foster will influence many, many people.
Some may accuse us of guilt by association but this is clearly guilt by promotion. In other words, there is a tie in or connection between every one we’ve mentioned. The individuals we’ve discussed are basically kindred spirits. And this illustrates the ground that contemplative spirituality is gaining on an ongoing basis. Lighthouse Trails wants to emphasize that this is no passing fad but the wave of the future. Karl Rahner (one of Foster’s mystics) said that “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.”6
In Rick Warren’s first book, The Purpose Driven Church, Warren praised the spiritual formation movement and recognized Richard Foster’s key role in it. Warren said that spiritual formation was a “valid message for the church”7 and has “given the body of Christ a wake-up call.”8 Unfortunately, largely because of Rick Warren’s world-wide following, Richard Foster’s legacy continues to endure.
1. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1978 edition), p. 13.
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed, 2006), pp. 76-77.
4. Interview with Matthew Fox: http://web.archive.org/web/20060425035122/nineoclockservice.tripod.com/mattiefx.htm.
5. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158.
6. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, Concern for the Church, translated Edward Quinn (New York: Crossroad, 1981), p. 149.
7. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church, p. 127.
Christian Mystics of the Past
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)
The Cloud of Unknowing (anonymous monk)
Richard Rolle (c. 1300-1349)
Julian of Norwich (1342-1423)
St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)
St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)
Brother Lawrence (1611- 1691)
George Fox (1624-1691)
Madam Guyon (1647-1717)
William Law (1686-1761)
Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881- 1955)
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
“Watching the markets… two interlocking phrases immediately come to mind: Ordo ab Chaos, and Crisis Equals Opportunity. Ordo ab Chaos is a Latin phrase and the motto of the Thirty-Third Degree of Freemasonry. It means, ‘Order out of Chaos.’â€ Carl Teichrib
“Never waste a good crisis.” Hillary Clinton
“…the financial crisis will lead to the creation of a global central bank and a global single currency within 15 years.” Stephen Gallo
Once a nation parts with control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes that nation’s laws. W.L. Mackenzie King [former Prime Minister of Canada]…
During the Nazi occupation of Norway (1939-1945), my father joined the Norwegian resistance movement and was willing to die for his country. But when the post-war years brought creeping socialism, he became increasingly disillusioned. Finally he chose to immigrate to America, which shone like a beacon of freedom and opportunity across Europe’s war-torn lands.
Entering the New York Harbor some years later, we gazed in awe at the Statue of Liberty. But even as we ate our first hamburger soon afterwards, America was already changing. Dwight D. Eisenhower, our war-time hero, was now president. John Foster Dulles — a founding member of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) — was his Secretary of State.
Like most Americans, we had no idea what was happening “behind the scenes.” We didn’t know that Dulles had been a Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation — or that he collaborated with Alger Hiss, an active member of the Communist Party, and had helped draft the preamble to the UN Charter back in 1945.
Nor did we realize that our Secretary of State had chaired a 1942 Federal (later renamed National) Council of Churches conference. In an article titled Conforming the Church to the New Millennium, I summarized the conference report. While Hitler’s armies were ravaging Europe, the Council used that devastating crisis as an opportunity to promote its agenda:
a world government of delegated powers
immediate limitations on national sovereignty
a [single] democratically controlled international bank
a universal system of money
worldwide freedom of immigration
even distribution of the worldâ€™s natural wealth.
Does that sound familiar? Apparently that last point didn’t originate with Obama! Even Time magazine was shocked!
Click here for references, links, and this entire article.
The theological implications of this worldview put it at direct odds with biblical Christianity for obvious reasons. Only one true God exists, and His identity is not in everyone.
It was Alice Bailey, the famous occult prophetess who coined the term New Age, who made this startling assertion:
It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy of method.1
What did she mean by the term “Christian Knower”? The answer is unmistakable! [O]ccultism is awakening the mystical faculties to see God in everything. In Hinduism, this is called reaching samadhi or enlightenment. It is the final objective of yoga meditation: God in everything–a force or power flowing through all that exists. William Johnston believes such an experience exists within the context of Christianity. He explains:
What I can safely say, however, is that there is a Christian samadhi that has always occupied an honored place in the spirituality of the West. This, I believe, is the thing that is nearest to Zen. It is this that I have called Christian Zen.2
The famous psychologist Carl Jung predicted this system would be the yoga of the west.3
Christian Zen? Christian yoga? These seem to be oxymorons, like military pacifism or alcoholic sobriety. Christians, conservative ones at least, have always viewed these concepts as heretical and anti-biblical. The word most commonly used for it is pantheism–all is God. But when one looks at the Christian Zen movement one discovers a similar term, which for all practical purposes, means the same thing. This term is called panentheism–God is in all things.
A highly respected source, The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, defines panentheism as a worldview that combines “the strengths of classic theism with the strengths of classic pantheism.”4
With panentheism you still have a personal God (theism) coupled with God’s pervasive presence in all creation (pantheism). In other words, with panentheism God is both a personality and an all encompassing substance as opposed to God being an impersonal substance that incorporates all of creation as found in pantheism.
The credibility of what I am saying rests on whether or not panentheism has a legitimate place in orthodox Christianity. This is a vital question because panentheism is the foundational worldview among those who engage in mystical prayer. Ken Kaisch, a Episcopal priest and a teacher of mystical prayer, made this very clear in his book, Finding God, where he noted:
Meditation is a process through which we quiet the mind and the emotions and enter directly into the experience of the Divine.â€¦ there is a deep connection between us … God is in each of us.5
Here lies the core of panentheism: God is in everything and everything is in God. The only difference between pantheism and panentheism is how God is in everything.
This position of the panentheist is challenging to understand: Your outer personality is not God, but God is still in you as your true identity. This explains why mystics say, all is one. At the mystical level, they experience this God-force that seems to flow through everything and everybody. All creation has God in it as a living, vital presence. It is just hidden.
The theological implications of this worldview put it at direct odds with biblical Christianity for obvious reasons. Only one true God exists, and His identity is not in everyone. The fullness of God’s identity, in bodily form, rests in Jesus Christ and Him only!
Scripture clearly teaches the only deity in man is Jesus Christ who dwells in the heart of the believer. Further, Jesus made it clear not everyone will be born again–having God’s Spirit (John 3). Yet the panentheist perceives that all people and everything have the identity of God within them.
William Johnston again emphasizes, “For God is the core of my being and the core of all beings.”6
This fundamentally eliminates faith in the Gospel as the avenue to reconciliation with God, because God is already there. It effectively leaves out the finished work of Christ as the binding agent and is contrary to the following verses:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (II John 9)
The Bible does reveal, though, that God upholds all things by His powerful word, but He does not do this by being the substance of all things. The word of God says, “[F]or in Him [Christ] we live and move and have our being …” (Acts 17:28). But this speaks of Him as separate from us yet remaining present with us. The belief that God indwells everything is heresy. God will not, and cannot share His personal essence with anyone or anything outside of the Trinity. Even Christians are only partakers of the Divine Nature and not possessors of the Divine Nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4 says:
[A]s His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Here the apostle Peter is writing to Christians, not to the world. He acknowledges the participation of the believer in conjunction with the work of the Holy Spirit. The word partaker is taken from the Greek word koinonos, which means a sharer (associate), companion, or fellowship partner. In other words, the Christian shares in the promises of the purifying work of the Holy Spirit, being called out and set apart from the corruption of an evil world. Moreover, a partaker or participant is one who has been born again through faith. A possessor, on the other hand, is one who is already in possession of something. In the case of the panentheist and pantheist, the possession they are claiming is God. They do not believe a fundamental change is needed, just an awareness of what is already there.
This conclusion becomes quite obvious when we examine such passages as Isaiah 42:8: “I am the LORD, that is my name; and My glory I will not give to another.” Creation can reflect God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), but it can never possess Godâ€™s glory. For that to happen would mean God was indeed giving His glory to another.
This concept is made crystal clear in author William Shannon’s book, Silence on Fire. Shannon, a Roman Catholic priest, relates the account of a theological discussion he once had with an atheist groom for whom he was performing a wedding ceremony. He told the skeptical young man:
You will never find God by looking outside yourself. You will only find God within. It will only be when you have come to experience God in your own heart and let God into the corridors of your heart (or rather found God there) that you will be able to ‘know’ that there is indeed a God and that you are not separate from God.7
This advice is no different from what any New Age teacher would impart to someone who held an atheistic point of view. You want God? Meditate! God is just waiting for you to open up. Based on Shannon’s own mystical beliefs, he knew this was the right approach. He alluded to this by explaining that the young man would find enlightenment if he would look in the right place or use the right method.
Those who support this heresy draw the same conclusion of mystical panentheism that author Willigis Jager articulated when he said:
The physical world, human beings, and everything that is are all forms of the Ultimate Reality, all expressions of God, all “one with the Father.”8
He means not all Christians but all people. This is nothing less than Hindu samadhi with Christian spray paint. Those in this movement who are honest have no qualms about acknowledging this–as one adherent did so aptly when he confessed, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics.”9 (For more information and documentation on contemplative spirituality, read A Time of Departing.)
1. Alice Bailey, From Intellect to Intuition (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing Co., 1987, 13th printing), p. 193.
2. William Johnston, Lord, Teach Us to Pray (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991), p. 54.
3. Ibid., p. 58.
4. Walter A. Elwel, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), p. 818.
5. Ken Kaisch, Finding God: A Handbook of Christian Meditation (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1994), p. 283.
6. William Johnson, The Mystical Way (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 224.
7. William Shannon, Silence on Fire (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991), p. 99.
8. Willigis Jager, Contemplation: A Christian Path (Ligouri, MO: Triumph Books, 1994), p. 93.
9. Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism, op. cit., p. 7.
For other articles by Ray Yungen, click here.
LTRP Note: We urge to read the articles, which links we have posted below this New York Times article, to gain a full understanding of the efforts to bring about a national “volunteer” service program. The world’s most popular pastor, Rick Warren, is very involved in this effort. He, in fact, is on the leadership council for Service Nation.
New York Times
Following overwhelming House passage last week, the Senate tonight [3/23/09] voted 74 to 14 on a procedural move that essentially guarantees a major expansion of a national service corps, a cornerstone of volunteerism that dates back to the era of President Kennedy. It’s akin to a call to arms by President Obama, who has harkened back to those early days to demand giving back by those who voted for him….
Tonight’s vote, propelled by President Obama’s urging of an expansion, would mean a growth in such work from 75,000 community service jobs to 250,000….
Senator Hatch mentioned that the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical minister of Saddleback Church and author of “A Purpose Driven Life,” was an enthusiastic supporter of this effort, as was Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee. The latter’s support, to Senator Hatch, demonstrated the exceptional bipartisan backing of the expansion. Click here to read this entire article.
Since 2004, a new scepter is being raised in the name of mysticism as parents and some undiscerning churchgoer’s flock to the altar of what some have called “child worship.” A mutating facet of the New Age is heralded by induction of the “Indigo Child.” Psychic and synesthesiac (see musical notes as color) Nancy Ann Tappe coined the new term. She classifies people’s personalities according to the hue of their auras. She claims to identify gifted children as having an indigo colored aura that signifies their mystical grandiosity.
Parents by the thousands have embraced this new thought and now label their children as Indigo Children verses having a neuro-biological condition requiring medication. One can understand why many parents would not want their child to be labeled as ADD or ADHD. The label implies imperfection. Some may even take it to mean the child is “damaged.” This new position sounds positive and stimulates pride in one’s offspring instead of coping with a medical problem.
Many materials are being written to advance this New Age teaching. “The Indigo Children” is a book written by Lee Carroll, a channeler for an entity he calls ‘Kryon.’ One thesis that Kryon presented of the Indigo Children is that many children diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder represent “a new kind of evolution of humanity.” The entity stated, “These children don’t require drugs like Ritalin, but special care and training.” Medical liability issues are yet to be seen from a comment like that.
One cannot begin to touch upon the curse associated with channeling familiar spirits. That is a topic all in itself, hopefully an issue that does not warrant discussion. Consulting mediums, soothsayers, channelers, psychics and other workers of iniquity are clearly condemned by God. (Example: I Samuel 28:7; 1 Chr. 10:13; Duet. 18:10-14) In Acts 16:16, we read about a demon-possessed girl who had psychic abilities proclaiming that Paul and his companions spoke truth. Paul was deeply troubled and rebuked the spirit commanding it to depart for there is nothing more repugnant than evil proclaiming truth. Satan from the beginning presented truth mixed with deception to Eve. The New Age is fully empowered with this same position.Click here to read this entire article.
More on Children and Meditation:
Lighthouse Trails is pleased to announce that our first spanish translation is now back from press. La Fe Desechada is Roger Oakland’s Faith Undone, the powerful expose on the new spirituality that has entered the church through the various avenues including the emerging church, the Purpose Driven movement, and contemplative spirituality. For more information on La Fe Desechada (description in Spanish), click here. For an English version, click here.