Archive for September 5th, 2008

New Age Sympathizer Leonard Sweet to Speak at Seventh Day Adventist Conference

The 4th Annual National Conference on Innovation, sponsored by the Ohio Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, will take place in October in Columbus, Ohio and will feature New Age sympathizer/emerging futurist Leonard Sweet. On the conference website, it states:

Partners in Innovation is a convergence of people and organizations committed to providing the environment, encouragement, resources and support for the emergence of the Adventist Church of the future in North America…. We ask you to consider becoming a partner in developing this far-reaching initiative to energize a new future for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.

Leonard Sweet, who promotes mysticism, christ-consciousness, and the “New Lights” movement that touts people like Matthew Fox, Ken Wilber, and other mystic proponents, recently spoke at Rick Warren’s Small Groups Conference. Sweet states in his book Quantum Spirituality that the “power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people ‘in-phase’ with the Christ consciousness (meaning the divinity of man) and connected with one another (meaning interspirituality)(p. 147).

The emerging church has been making inroads into Seventh Day Adventism as it has in most of “religion in the Western world.” Roger Oakland, in his book Faith Undone, discusses Samir Selmanovic, a Muslim turned-Seventh Day Adventist pastor-turned emerging figure:

Samir Selmanovic … has some interesting and alarming views on Christianity. He states:

The emerging church movement has come to believe that the ultimate context of the spiritual aspirations of a follower of Jesus Christ is not Christianity but rather the kingdom of God…. to believe that God is limited to it [Christianity] would be an attempt to manage God. If one holds that Christ is confined to Christianity, one has chosen a god that is not sovereign. Soren Kierkegaard argued that the moment one decides to become a Christian, one is liable to idolatry.1

On Selmanovic’s website, Faith House project, he presents an interfaith vision that will “…seek to bring progressive Jews, Christians, Muslims, and spiritual seekers of no faith to become an interfaith community for the good of the world. We have one world and one God.”2

While Selmanovic says he includes Christians in this interspiritual dream for the world, he makes it clear that while they might be included, they are in no way beholders of an exclusive truth. He states:

Is our religion [Christianity] the only one that understands the true meaning of life? Or does God place his truth in others too? Well, God decides, and not us. The gospel is not our gospel, but the gospel of the kingdom of God, and what belongs to the kingdom of God cannot be hijacked by Christianity.3

While it is true that God is the One who decides where He is going to place truth, He has already made that decision. And the answer to that is found in the Bible. When Selmanovic asks if Christianity is the only religion that understands the true meaning of life, the answer is yes. How can a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Muslim fully understand truth when their religions omit a Savior who died for their sins?

Though world religions may share some moral precepts (don’t lie, steal, etc), the core essence of Christianity (redemption) is radically different from all of them. Interspirituality may sound noble on the surface, but in actuality, Selmanovic and the other emerging church leaders are facilitating occultist Alice Bailey’s rejuvenation of the churches. In her rejuvenation, everyone remains diverse (staying in their own religion), yet united in perspective, with no one religion claiming a unique corner on the truth. In other words all religions lead to the same destination and emanate from the same source. And of course, Bailey believed that a “coming one” whom she called Christ would appear on the scene in order to lead united humanity into an era of global peace. However, you can be sure that if such a scenario were to take place as Bailey predicted, there would be no room for those who cling to biblical truth.

As is the case with so many emergent leaders, Selmanovic’s confusing language dances obscurely around his theology, whether he realizes it or not. Sadly, for those who are lost and who are trying to find the way, the emerging church movement offers confusion in place of clarity. It blurs if not obliterates the walls of distinction between good and evil, truth and falsehood, leaving people to stumble along a broken path, hoping to find light. (from Faith Undone, pp. 187-189)

How far will the emerging mystical church move into Seventh Day Adventism? A 2004 article in the Adventist News Network, “Church, Congregations Increase Focus on ‘Spiritual Formation,” gives more than a glimpse to the answer to this question. “Spiritual formation is a topic being raised by many pastors and church leaders in a growing number of Christian denominations,” the article states. It adds:

For the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a “wake-up call” was sounded after a 2002 survey showed that though doctrinal understanding was high, there were several “areas of concern,”

The article says that “concerns can be linked to how the church rates in the area of spiritual formation, which has been defined by one Adventist Church pastor as ‘the process of becoming a mature Christian disciple of God.” Spiritual formation, another term for contemplative spirituality, eventually leads into the arena of the emerging church (both are based in mysticism). The article goes on: “Today this subject is receiving serious emphasis in Adventist institutions, as well as in local congregations.”

A case in point, in 2006, Brian McLaren was a guest speaker at the Adventist Loma Linda University. McLaren rejects the traditional view of the atonement (substitutionary death of Christ for sins). Loma Linda now has spiritual formation as an integral part of school life. Interestingly, they are using the Journal of Spiritual Formation that is put out by Biola University (a strong proponent for contemplative).

John Jenson, an Adventist pastor in Torrance, California, says, “There’s a need for spiritual formation with the [Adventist] Church . . . without spiritual formation, a person would be ‘spiritually uncivilized.'” If this line of reasoning is shared among other Adventist pastors, then no doubt contemplative/emerging spirituality will place its heavy mark on the Adventist movement as it has already done in so many other religious groups. And with Leonard Sweet speaking at Adventist conferences, this process will be speeded up all the more.

1. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Samir Selmanovic section, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness,” pp. 192-193.
2. From Faith House Project website: http://samirselmanovic.
3. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 194.

New Age Similarities, Popularity Continues, and Calvary Chapel Gives Official Statement

The Shack by William P. Young has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 15 weeks, currently in the number one position for Fiction books. The book has been promoted by popular Christian figures such as Eugene Peterson and Gayle Erwin (The Jesus Style). What’s more, numerous Christian ministries such as Probe Ministries (an apologetics group based out of Texas) are endorsing the book. Probe’s associate speaker, Sue Bohlin says “The Shack became one of my all-time favorite books before I had even finished it.” 1

In addition to receiving wide acceptance from the Christian community at large, the author speaks at many evangelical churches. On September 19th and 20th, for instance, Young will be speaking at North Valley Calvary Chapel in Yuba City, California, church of Calvary pastor Bob Fromm. 2 However, even though this is a Calvary Chapel church, Calvary Distribution (the resource and book venue for the Calvary Chapel movement) has issued an “Official Statement” regarding The Shack. Calvary Distribution’s book reviewer, Keyan Soltani, calls The Shack “a dangerous book.” The Official Statement reads:

Due to the popularity of this book and the positive endorsements it has received from the Christian community, we felt that it would be prudent to explain why, as those who hold fast to the word/nature of God as inerrant, we will not be endorsing this book. Some of our concerns include:

  • The minimizing of the word of God: The Shack errs in the presumption that God desires to be freed from His word as expressed by the characters, yet, the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 138:2 “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.”
  • The redefining of the nature of God: the book implies a theology of modalism which is defined as the non Trinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself.
  • The book’s conversational tone is intended to catch the reader off guard with overt casualness. There is a personalized-trademarked version of God that requires the least bit of commitment; seeker-friendly experience over truth; an air of anti-authority for the spiritually lazy consumer. The double-speak and theology that is embedded in this book with its underlying condescension, protesting agenda, and liberal theology are genetic markers of the emergent church.

    We recognize the enormous popularity of The Shack but are wary of the overlying theological implications and the presentation of the person of God within this book.

  • In a Lighthouse Trails report on The Shack, it was brought out that co-author of The Shack, Wayne Jacobsen 3 resonates with the leaders in the emerging church, which may well have influenced the final draft of The Shack. The book refers to God as “the ground of all being” that “dwells in, around, and through all things–ultimately emerging as the real” (p. 112)–this is the ripe fruit of contemplative/emerging spirituality. One can find this language and definition of God in the writings of John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg, and the concept overflows within the emerging camp. Let there be no mistake, this description of God does not mean that God upholds everything; it means that God is the essence of all that exists (in other words, He dwells in all humans and all creation).

    New Age proponent Sue Monk Kidd would agree with The Shack’s definition of God: in her book, First Light, she says God is the graffiti on the building (p. 98).

    It is possible that a key to understanding The Shack could actually lie with Monk Kidd who was once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher. She began studying the teachings of mystic Thomas Merton, which eventually led her out of the Southern Baptist arena and into the New Age. Today, she follows goddess spirituality (Sophia) and has said in one of her books that God dwells in all things, even excrement (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter). There is perhaps a striking similarity between The Shack’s “God” the Father and the Black Madonna used in Monk Kidd’s best selling novel, The Secret Life of Bees (coming out soon as a movie). Monk Kidd says the Black Madonna she chose is “a powerful symbolic essence that could take up residence inside of [the novel’s character, Lily] and become catalytic in her transformation.”4 The fact that both Sue Monk Kidd and William Young have chosen a Black Madonna figure as representing “God” and that both talk about the ground of all being (God in all things) cannot be ignored. Episcopal priest (panentheist) Matthew Fox says

    Today the Black Madonna is returning. She is coming, not going, and she is calling us to something new (and very ancient as well)…. [T]he Black Madonna archetype awakens in us and … she is so important for the twenty-first century…. The Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths. This is what the mystics call the “inside” of things, the essence of things. This is where Divinity lies. It is where the true self lies…. Because she is a goddess, the Black Madonna resides in all beings. She is the divine presence inside of creation.5

    The gap between the New Age and Christianity is being narrowed, and The Shack is another disastrous and deceptive tool that will bring this about. When David Jeremiah favorably quoted and referenced Sue Monk Kidd in his book, Life Wide Open, we knew this would further close the gap that gave Christianity its distinctness. It is this distinctness that allows sinful man to see his need for a Savior. When that gap closes, the Gospel message will be hidden from view from even more people than it is today. The Shack has brought about some huge strides in causing this to take place.

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