On Monday night, August 25th, emerging church author Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) gave the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. This comes on the heels of the news that Brian McLaren (prolific writer and emerging church leader) is now an advisor to Barack Obama.
A concerted effort is taking place to draw emerging church voters into the Democratic arena. It is quite possible that the emerging vote will be the tipping factor in the upcoming presidential election. In a 2006 CBS Special Report, it was suggested that there could be as many as twenty million participants in the emerging church. 1 Even if this figure is higher than the actual number, based on the number of emerging church books that have sold, those influenced by and attracted to this spirituality are in the millions.
Two myths should be dispelled in order to gain a better understanding of this effort:
Myth 1: Donald Miller is not really an emerging church figure. Wrong. Miller shares the same spiritual outlook as other emerging leaders (even in Blue Like Jazz, which has sold over a million copies and has gained enormous influence in the evangelical church). That is why atonement-denier Brian McLaren said there is “no better book than Blue Like Jazz to introduce Christian spirituality.” McLaren said this about Miller because he recognizes Miller as a soul mate of emerging spirituality.
The following quote by Miller (in BLJ) reveals much about his spiritual propensities:
For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained (p. 115).
When Miller says that “Christian spirituality” cannot be explained, he means that solid, unchangeable biblical doctrine and theology do not exist. When Miller says “Christian spirituality” can only be “experienced,” this is referring to mysticism. That can be substantiated when Miller says: “You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic” (p. 202). He has echoed mystic Karl Rahner’s words who said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. Some may say that Miller is merely defending ideas like the trinity or eternity (which he refers to in BLJ) as being mystical. But putting in context Miller’s statement above, he is actually defending “Christian writers” who embrace “mysticism.” These are two different things. When the “Christian” mystics speak of mysticism, they are referring to altered states of consciousness (the silence) reached during mantric-style meditation. And while Miller doesn’t mention contemplative or mantras in his books, he helps condition people to see mysticism as a legitimate and valuable practice.
For those who may be skeptical regarding Miller’s view on mysticism, in Searching for God Knows What in the acknowledgements, Miller thanks New Age meditation proponent Daniel Goleman. Goleman (author of The Meditative Mind) writes favorably about mantra meditation and Buddhism. He was the editor for a book titled Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health.
Miller backs up his dismissal of doctrine and theology (an earmark of all emerging leaders) when he says he has “climb[ed] outside my pat answers [doctrine],” and says “Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid” (p. 205). That might sound acceptable to many people today in our feel-good, redefining society, but it is the “pat answers” and the “chart” that the Bible has given us so we can understand God, life, and salvation. Miller reiterates his rejection of immoveable doctrine by concluding:
At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.
A million to one is very low odds that “any” of our theology is right. What about the theology of the atonement? Is our chance of understanding that a million to one? What about the theology of Jesus Christ’s return? Can we possibly know whether or not He is coming back? And what about the theology of biblical inerrancy? Can we even trust the Bible? With the odds Miller suggests, no, we can trust nothing about God’s Word at all. Praise God, that Miller’s odds are completely wrong.
Myth 2: The emerging church isn’t against debating the abortion or gay issues; they just don’t want those to be the ONLY issues. In Donald Miller’s second book, Searching for God Knows What, mystic proponent, Tony Campolo, endorsed the book, saying, “We need this book.” Brian McLaren and other emergent leaders endorsed the book as well. In that book, Miller echoes the emergent voices when he states:
I wondered if the Christian faith in America had not been hijacked as well, hijacked by those same two issues: abortion and gay marriage. How did a spirituality such as Christianity, a spirituality that speaks of eternity, of a world without end, of forgiveness of sins and a mysterious union with the Godhead, come to be represented by a moralist agenda and a trickle-down economic theory?
The mantra of the emerging church is (including by Rick Warren) the false accusation that the only two things biblical Christians care about is stopping abortion and gay marriage. They state publicly that we should also care about the sick, the poor, and the needy. But you see, this is not what they mean: Since biblical Christians have cared about the poor, the sick, and the needy already, what they really mean is those two issues should be dumped altogether.
Rick Warren and other emerging leaders are not being honest when they use the media and their books to convince the masses that biblical Christians do not care about those in need. And whether they know it or not, they are helping to bring about a new spirituality, which has its foundation based on death. How’s that? The driving force behind the emerging church is mysticism. The premise behind mysticism is man’s divinity. Believing that man is God ultimately leads to death because in that belief system, there is no need for a Savior. Man erroneously thinks he can save himself. Thus, he dies in his sin because he rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Everything that Satan does leads to death. Abortion and practicing homosexuality are in essence practices of death, and it only makes sense that this new age mystical spirituality that is entering the church condemns Christians who oppose abortion and the practice of homosexuality.
The reason the emerging church must ultimately accept practicing homosexuality and abortion is because both of these practices lead to death, and emerging spirituality is ultimately a belief system that draws people away from biblical truth that gives life and takes them toward an interspiritual, panentheistic “religion” (i.e., man is God) that leads to spiritual death (see Sue Monk Kidd).
Basically, the agendas of the Democratic Party and the emerging church are strikingly similar. Is it any wonder that the Democratic National Convention and the Obama ticket are using emerging church leaders to win this next election?
Donald Miller’s “prayer” at the Democratic National Convention
The Era of the Single Savior is Over by Warren Smith
The overarching theme of Miller’s book is the glorification of rebellion by preaching false freedom. That’s exactly what the Haight-Ashbury preached; it’s exactly what drugs promise; and it’s exactly what the Emergent Church movement promotes today.by Richard and Linda Nathan
A phenomenon in evangelical circles, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller has sold over 800,000 copies and made the New York Times bestseller list since its publication by Thomas Nelson Publishers in 2003, and its popularity continues to grow. An icon in the burgeoning Emergent Church movement, it attracts countless youth in contemporary Christian culture. Seminarians nationwide are reading it avidly, and some Christian ministries and pastors are even using it to evangelize.
Why? And what does that popularity reveal about evangelicalism today?
I first read Blue Like Jazz because Christians I knew were whispering about what a wonderful book it is. I had no idea what it was about, but I figured with a name like that it could be about anything. Now, after reading it, a better title has occurred to me: Green Like Envy. I chose this title because it refers to my overwhelming impression that Don Miller envies the non-Christian or pagan life but feels confined by Christian roots. Instead, he hangs around the outskirts of paganism, hoping that something will rub off on him that he thinks Christians don’t have and pagans do.
A big focus of Miller’s book is his attraction to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where, although he doesn’t attend, he spends a lot of time. He reports getting involved with the few Christians on campus and mingling with the students. The book’s high point is his description of an annual festival he thinks is cool.
“Each year at Reed they have a festival called Ren Fayre. They shut down the campus so students can party. Security keeps the authorities away, and everybody gets pretty drunk and high, and some people get naked. Friday night is mostly about getting drunk, and Saturday night is about getting high. The school brings in White Bird, a medical unit that specializes in treating bad drug trips. The students create special lounges with black lights and television screens to enhance kids’ mushroom trips.” [Author's note: Hallucinogenic mushrooms are also called "magic" mushrooms.]
“Saturday evening at Ren Fayre is alive and fun. The sun goes down over the campus, and shortly after dark they shoot fireworks over the tennis courts. Students lay out on a hill and laugh and point in blurry-eyed fascination. The highlight of the evening is a glow opera that packs the amphitheater with students and friends. The opera is designed to enhance mushroom trips.”
Now why would a “Christian” call an immoral festival where people run around nude high on drugs “alive and fun”? Why does he think of this as hip and cool?Click here to read this entire article.
Pepperdine University is a Christian school located in California. Since the 1940s, Pepperdine University has been presenting their “Bible Lectures” series. This year the university presented the “65th Annual Bible Lectures,” a four-day event. On three of the four days, a session titled “An Introduction to Contemplative Prayer” was given.1 The three workshops were titled: Through Imaging Prayer (guided imagery), Lectio Divina, and The Process of Examen (Ignatius exercises).
Jackie Halstead, an assistant professor at Abilene Christian University Texas was the presenter. Halstead has a special interest in spiritual formation. Abilene University is listed on the Lighthouse Trails “Colleges that Promote Contemplative.” 2 The school uses textbooks by several emergent and contemplative figures and has a strong spiritual formation program. Some of the authors representing textbooks used in classes are: Doug Pagitt, Henri Nouwen, Tony Jones, Lauren Winner, Richard Foster, Walter Brueggemann, Robert Webber, and Duffy Robbins, all of whom are contemplative/emerging proponents. Abilene is also using a book (in UNIV 203: Prof. Tate) by New Age Gerald Jampolsky (a proponent of A Course in Miracles, the New Age “bible”). Abilene’s spiritual formation section lists several emerging/contemplative resources for students including The Ooze, Worship Leader magazine, and Willow Creek. 3
Part of the reason Pepperdine University is going in this direction may have to do with its Provost, Darryl Tippens(“chief academic officer” of Pepperdine University), who lists the following people as those he admires: Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Soren Kierkegaard, Kathleen Norris, and Anne Lamott (all promoters of mysticism). In Tippens own book, Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life, Tippens references Thomas Merton a number of times and encourages the use of contemplative practices such as lectio divina, going into the silence (the outcome of mantric-style practices), attending “silent retreats,” and repeating the Jesus Prayer. Tippens book is riddled with favorable quoting or referencing of contemplative authors; some of those are Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Marjorie Thompson (Soul Feast), Kathleen Norris, Donald Miller, Julian of Norwich, and Flannery O’ Conner. These all have contemplative propensities. With a line up like this, there is no question that Tippens resonates with the contemplative prayer movement. Unfortunately, this will have a profound (in the negative sense) impact in the oveall spiritual outlook at Pepperdine University. The Introduction to Contemplative Prayer at Pepperdine’s Bible Lectures this past spring is proof of that.
To understand the spirituality that Tippens is promoting, a look at Marjorie Thompson’s book, Soul Feast (which Tippens says will “greatly enrich one’s understanding and practice” (of contemplative silence) is vital (please click here to read our book review of Soul Feast).
‘One World One Dream’ fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit — Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream…. It highlights the theme of ‘the whole Mankind lives in the same world and seeks for the same dream and ideal.’” Beijing 2008
“The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games emblem ‘… is filled with Beijing’s hospitality and hopes…. The color ‘red’ is intensively used in the emblem, pushing the passion up to a new level…. Red is the color of the Sun and the Holy Fire, representing life and a new beginning.” The Olympic Emblem
[Meanwhile] “…a number of Chinese House Church Pastors were forced to sign a written agreement that they would not participate in religious services while the Olympic Games are taking place….” China Aid
Like its familiar Yin Yang symbol, China’s Olympics is full of contrasts. The opening ceremony seemed flawless but raised questions about integrity. It showed a “dazzling chain of massive fireworks,” which turned out to be “mostly computer-generated.” We heard a nine-year old girl singing an amazing solo, but a more beautiful girl (with a less perfect voice) stood in her place, mimed the words and received the applause of 91,000 spectators.
The next days prompted more questions. Were the vast Olympic construction projects worth evicting more than a million people? Was winning a gold medal worth lying about the age of a gifted gymnast? Did banishing Christian leaders and their families from Beijing before the Olympics fit the vision of a “One World” union?
Communism has always clashed with truth, freedom and integrity, and China’s choices illustrate the point. Only by unthinkable compromise can the “free world” find “common ground” with Communist totalitarianism. Yet, countless clues suggest that its masses are now marching blindly toward an illusion of unity, following leaders who willingly trade conviction for compromise….
Aldous Huxley shared some interesting observations about mandatory oneness in a book he wrote after Hitler temporarily shattered the socialist vision of an evolving utopia. In Brave New World Revisited, he wrote,
“The future dictator’s subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers….
“Their behavior is determined, not by knowledge and reason, but by feelings and unconscious drives. It is in these drives and feelings that ‘the roots of their positive as well as their negative attitudes are implanted.’ To be successful a propagandist must learn how to manipulate these instincts and emotions…. Whoever wishes to win over the masses must know the key that will open the door of their hearts.’ Click here to read this entire article.
“Donald Miller to Give DNC Benediction”
Best-selling author Donald Miller will give a benediction Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. He replaces Relevant Magazine founder and CEO Cameron Strang, who decided not to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention as previously planned.
Christianity Today featured Miller on its cover in June 2007, and his spirituality book Blue Like Jazz has sold more than one million copies.
“Don is one of the top names among young evangelicals,” said Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for the Barack Obama campaign. “We didn’t think he would do it. We’re just ecstatic. I love Blue Like Jazz myself. I think it sends a huge signal that someone who’s is helping to lead off the conventions is an evangelical of his calibre.” Click here to read this entire article.
In Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller, in the Acknowledgements, Miller thanks New Age meditation proponent Daniel Goleman, who writes books about mantra meditation, Buddhism. He was the editor for Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health
“For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.” Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, p. 115 See The New Missiology
Other speakers scheduled so far for the 2009 event are emerging church pastor, Dan Kimball, Miles McPherson, Nancy Ortberg, Robert Schuller, Henry Cloud and others. More are expected to be added to the list. The 2008 Rethink Conference had over 40 speakers, including the ones mentioned above, except for Zacharias who is new this year.
Lighthouse Trails reported on last year’s event in an article titled: “Erwin McManus Teams Up with Robert Schuller – Could Have Far-Reaching Effects” The 2008 Rethink was hosted by Schuller, Sr. and emerging church futurist Erwin McManus. One of the things our 2007 report brought out was the contemplative (i.e., mystical) aspect several of the speakers shared. Some of those in that category were Kay Warren, John and Nancy Ortberg, Erwin McManus, and Dan Kimball.
Ravi Zacharias is not without his own contemplative leanings. In an article titled, “Ravi Zacharias Ministries Points to Nouwen, Merton, and Foster,” it was brought out that “Ravi Zacharias International Ministry website is carrying numerous articles, which speak favorably of Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen, Catholic monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, and contemplative Richard Foster.” Those articles are still on Zacharias’ website.
Our 2007 report on the Rethink also stated:
The Rethink Conference is bringing together leaders from several different philosophical and religious camps under the auspices of Robert Schuller. If one wonders what his purpose is, that answer might be found in his book, My Journey, when Schuller states:
I met once more with the Grand Mufti [a Muslim], truly one of the great Christ-honoring leaders of faith…. I’m dreaming a bold impossible dream: that positive-thinking believers in God will rise above the illusions that our sectarian religions have imposed on the world, and that leaders of the major faiths will rise above doctrinal idiosyncrasies, choosing not to focus on disagreements, but rather to transcend divisive dogmas to work together to bring peace and prosperity and hope to the world…. p. 502
Standing before a crowd of devout Muslims with the Grand Mufti, I know that we’re all doing God’s work together. Standing on the edge of a new millennium, we’re laboring hand in hand to repair the breach.” p. 501
What is really taking place at the Rethink Conference is the reality of Schuller’s dream that there be a global unity among all religions and beliefs and that all these paths lead to the same God (i.e., “we’re all doing God’s work” and all these paths can “bring peace and prosperity and hope to the world.”)
It is still unknown who all the speakers will be at the 2009 Rethink, but unless Ravi Zacharias comes to realize his sharing a platform with Schuller will hurt, not help, the Gospel message from getting out, he will most likely be one of the them.
On August 19th, someone from the CCCA office contacted Lighthouse Trails to confirm that Alistair Begg would not be speaking at the Reimagine Conference. His name has now been removed from the Reimagine website. We were also told by that CCCA hoped to replace him with another solid teacher. (Click here to read full story.)