Rick Warren has invited New Age proponent Leonard Sweet to speak at the 2008 Saddleback Small Groups Conference called Wired. 1 The theme of the conference is “Prepare your church for spiritual growth and connectivity.” Unfortunately, spiritual growth and connectivity ala Leonard Sweet could be a panentheistic, mystical dose of the New Age – and it isn’t the first time Warren has found comradeship with Sweet. As Ray Yungen explains in A Time of Departing, Sweet and Warren came together in 1994 for their Tides of Change audio series. Yungen describes Warren and Sweet’s relationship as well as Sweet’s beliefs:
In the set, Warren and Sweet talk about “new frontiers,” “changing times” and a “new spirituality” on the horizon.
Later, in Sweet’s 2001 book, Soul Tsunami, Warren gives an endorsement that sits on the back as well as on the front cover of the book. Of the book, Warren says:
Leonard Sweet … suggests practical ways to communicate God’s unchanging truth to our changing world.1
Some of these “practical ways” include using a labyrinth and visiting a meditation center.2 Sweet also says, “It’s time for a Post Modern Reformation,”3 adding that “The wind of spiritual awakening is blowing across the waters.”4 He says that times are changing and you’d better “Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die.”5
To better understand Leonard Sweet’s spirituality, I would like to draw your attention to a book he wrote a few years prior to The Tides of Change audio set–Quantum Spirituality. I highly recommend you take a look at this book yourself==Sweet has now placed the book on his website at www.leonardsweet.com in a format easy to download, which, of course, shows that he still promotes its message.
The acknowledgments section of Quantum Spirituality shows very clearly Sweet’s spiritual sympathies. In it, Sweet thanks interspiritualists/universalists such as Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ), Episcopalian priest/mystic Morton Kelsey, Willis Harman (author of Global Mind Change) and Ken Wilber (one of the major intellectuals in the New Age movement) for helping him to find what he calls “New Light.”6 Sweet adds that he trusts “the Spirit that led the author of The Cloud of Unknowing.”7
In the preface of the same book, Sweet disseminates line after line of suggestions that the “old teachings” of Christianity must be replaced with new teachings of “the New Light.” And yet these new teachings, he believes, will draw from “ancient teachings” (the Desert Fathers). This “New Light movement,” Sweet says, is a “radical faith commitment that is willing to dance to a new rhythm.8
Throughout the book, Sweet favorably uses terms like Christ consciousness and higher self and in no uncertain terms promotes New Age ideology: “[Quantum spirituality is] a structure of human becoming, a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience.”9
The Bible does not describe Jesus Christ as an energy channeling its way in and through us. Without a doubt, this is New Age lingo. The wonderful thing about the Gospel that is presented in Scripture is that Jesus Christ is presented as a personal God who loves us and will have a relationship with anyone who, by faith, comes to the Father through Him. This is where the contemplatives have it wrong. They believe that through this meditative prayer they can reach God.
Sweet also tells his readers that humanity and creation are united as one and we must realize it. Once humanity comes to this realization, Sweet says:
Then, and only then, will a New Light movement of “world-making” faith have helped to create the world that is to, and may yet, be. Then, and only then, will earthlings have uncovered the meaning … of the last words [Thomas Merton] uttered: “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity.”10
Leonard Sweet is what could be called an Alice Bailey Christian because his views on the role of mysticism in the church are evident. He states:
Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center…. In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, “The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing.” [Mysticism] is metaphysics arrived at through mindbody experiences. Mysticism begins in experience; it ends in theology.11
It is this same mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) that I believe Rick Warren is also promoting. Warren extends his promotion and endorsement of Sweet to his pastors.com website. Nearly a dozen times Sweet is referred to positively, including an article featuring Sweet and another article written by him. (from chapter 8, A Time of Departing)
Leonard Sweet is a New Ager. For Rick Warren to have him as a speaker for the upcoming Wired conference is a blatant move on Warren’s part in his efforts to shift Christianity into a New Age (or what he calls New Reformation) that will help lead to the greatest apostasy this world has ever seen. For any church to still use Purpose Driven material and still promote Rick Warren in any fashion makes that church just as guilty as Rick Warren himself.
If you really want to know the direction Rick Warren is going toward, study Leonard Sweet, Ken Wilber, and Alice Bailey. That will indeed show you a picture of the Purpose Driven future and sad to say the future of thousands of evangelical churches around the world.
For more information:
1. Rick Warren, Soul Tsunami by Leonard Sweet (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan, 1999), cover.
2. Ibid., Leonard Sweet, Soul Tsunami, op. cit., pp. 431, 432.
3. Ibid., p. 17.
4. Ibid., p. 408.
5. Ibid., p. 75.
6. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints, 1991), Acknowledgments, viii-ix.
7. Ibid., xi.
8. Ibid., Preface, p. 7.
9. Ibid., p. 70
10. Ibid., p. 13 in Preface.
11. Ibid., p. 76.