The “Wonderful” Deception of the Purpose Driven Paradigm

A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?—Jeremiah 5:30-31

LTRP Note: The following is an excerpt from Warren B. Smith’s new book, A “Wonderful” Deception. The book begins with a recap of Smith’s earlier book, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Church. Because more and more churches everyday are deciding to adopt the  “Purpose Driven,” paradigm, this material is vital to understand. Please feel free to print and distribute this posting. If you would like it in a printable PDF with preface, introduction and endnotes, click here.

by Warren B. Smith
“Deceived on Purpose”
(from chapter 1 of A “Wonderful” Deception)

I was working as a hospice social worker on the California coast in the late summer of 2003 when I first read Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life. Having been formerly involved in the New Age movement, I immediately recognized some serious New Age implications to Warren’s Purpose Driven movement. Feeling compelled to warn the church about the spiritual confusion that could result from some of his teachings, I resigned my hospice job to write Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Church. The book was published in August of 2004.

In Deceived on Purpose, while I did not describe Rick Warren or his Purpose Driven Church as “New Age,” I did point out the many New Age implications regarding his teachings and the danger those teachings posed for the church.

Because Saddleback apologists have misrepresented these warnings and because my concerns have grown significantly since I wrote Deceived on Purpose, I have written this follow-up book. To lay a proper foundation for A “Wonderful” Deception, I will briefly summarize some of the basic concerns I expressed in Deceived on Purpose. I will recap these in the remainder of this first chapter.

Ten Basic Concerns

1) Rick Warren Cites New Age Leader
In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren introduces his main themes of “hope” and “purpose.” Inexplicably, Warren chooses to introduce “hope” and “purpose” in his book by citing Dr. Bernie Siegel—a veteran New Age leader who claims to have a spirit-guide named George.1 Somehow, readers of The Purpose Driven Life are expected to believe that God inspired Warren to introduce the themes of hope and purpose by referencing the “wisdom” of Bernie Siegel, an author and leader in the New Age movement. But the Bible warns that this kind of worldly wisdom is not from God and can confuse and stumble believers, and completely mislead unbelievers:

This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (James 3:15)

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)

2) Rick Warren Sends Confusing New Age Message: “God is in everything”
Out of the fifteen different Bible versions Rick Warren uses in The Purpose Driven Life, he chooses to cite Ephesians 4:6 from a new translation that erroneously conveys the panentheistic New Age teaching that God is “in” everything. According to New Age leaders, this teaching is foundational to the New Age/New Spirituality.2 Yet of these fifteen Bible versions Warren uses in his book, he chooses the New Century Version that has potentially misled millions of Purpose Driven readers to believe this key New Age doctrine that God is “in” everything. Regarding God, Warren writes:

The Bible says, “He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything”3

The New Century Version quoted by Rick Warren verbalizes what A Course in Miracles and my other New Age books taught me years ago—that God is “in” everyone and everything. This completely misrepresents what the apostle Paul is saying in Ephesians 4:6. In Deceived on Purpose, I explain:

In this Scripture Paul is not writing to the world at large. The book of Ephesians is Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus and to the faithful followers of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:1 he makes it clear that he is writing to “the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

According to properly translated Scripture, God is not “in” everyone and everything, and God’s Holy Spirit only indwells those who truly accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (John 14:15-17; Acts 5:32). In Deceived on Purpose, I wrote:

Because the Church of Ephesus was composed of believers who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, God had sent His Holy Spirit to them. Therefore, as a result of their conversion God’s Holy Spirit resided in them all. Thus, Paul is only addressing the believers of Ephesus and the “faithful in Christ Jesus” when he stated that God is “above all, and through all, and in you all.” He was not saying that God is present in unbelievers. He was not saying that God is “in” everyone and “in” everything. That is what the New Age teaches.4

It is vital to understand the difference in renderings of Ephesians 4:6. Compare the New Century Version that Rick Warren quotes with the King James Bible:

He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything. (NCV)

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (KJV)

3) Rick Warren and The Message
In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren cites Eugene Peterson’s The Message more than any other Bible version. The Message is laden with its own set of questionable New Age implications. In the first chapter of The Purpose Driven Life, five of the six Scriptures Warren cites come from The Message. Warren states that The Message is a Bible “paraphrase,” yet he frequently writes, “the Bible says” when quoting from The Message.5

One of the many examples of the New Age implications of The Message is seen in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrasing of the Lord’s Prayer. Where most translations read “in earth, as it is in heaven,” Peterson inserts the occult/New Age phrase “as above, so below.” The significance of this mystical occult saying is seen clearly in As Above, So Below, a book published in 1992 by the editors of New Age Journal. Chief editor Ronald S. Miller describes how the occult/magical saying “as above, so below” conveys the “fundamental truth about the universe”—the teaching that “we are all one” because God is “immanent” or “within” everyone and everything. Miller writes:

Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, the great master alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, believed to be a contemporary of the Hebrew prophet Abraham, proclaimed this fundamental truth about the universe: “As above, so below; as below, so above.” This maxim implies that the transcendent God beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one. Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, the invisible and the visible worlds form a unity to which we are intimately linked.6

Miller continues describing the meaning of “as above, so below” by quoting Sufi scholar Reshad Field:

“‘As above, so below’ means that the two worlds are instantaneously seen to be one when we realize our essential unity with God. . . . The One and the many, time and eternity, are all One.”7 (ellipsis in original)

In 2004 when I searched “as above, so below” on the Internet, the first entry listed further defined this “key” New Age term:

This phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. “‘That which is above is the same as that which is below’ . . . The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man.”8

Most of the references, either on websites or in books and magazines containing the phrase “as above, so below” describe the term as having the same occult/mystical/New Age/esoteric/magical sources. One website states:

This ancient phrase, “As above, so below” describes the Oneness of All That Is.9

In Deceived on Purpose, I discuss my concerns over Rick Warren placing such great emphasis on Eugene Peterson’s The Message. When I looked up Ephesians 4:6 in The Message, Peterson’s paraphrase (like the New Century Version) also definitely lends itself to the New Age interpretation that God is present “in” everyone. In The Message, Peterson introduces his readers—with no parenthetical warnings or explanations—to the concept of ‘Oneness’:

You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.10

The “as above, so below” God “in” everything “Oneness” message of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message sounds strikingly similar to the same “as above, so below” God “in” everything “Oneness” message of the New Age/New Spirituality. Such a teaching is contrary to what the Bible teaches. We are only “one” in Christ Jesus when we repent of our sins and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Galatians 3:26-28 states:

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

4) The Purpose Driven Life’s Distorted View of Bible Prophecy
In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren strongly discourages the study of prophecy. He states that “in essence” Jesus told his disciples: “The details of my return are none of your business.”11 Contrary to what Warren writes, in Jesus’ discussion on the Mount of Olives, He tells His disciples that an understanding of the details of His return is very important. He provides much needed prophetic information so that His followers will not be deceived about the details of His return at the end of time. In Deceived on Purpose, I explain:

He warns that there will be false teachers and false teachings that will try to confuse the details of His return. He provides the prophetic detail because He didn’t want His disciples, or any of us, mistaking Antichrist’s arrival for His own return. He initiates His lengthy prophetic discourse by saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” He ends His discussion by warning them to “watch” and “be ready.”12

As someone who has come out of New Age teachings, I find it very disturbing that Rick Warren writes that the details of Jesus’ return are none of our business. In Deceived on Purpose, I talk about the role that these details had in my own eventual conversion:

Understanding the events surrounding His return was critical to understanding how badly I had been deceived by my New Age teachings. I had learned from reading the Bible that there is a false Christ on the horizon and that for a number of years I had unknowingly been one of his followers. Because the Bible’s clear authoritative teachings about the real Jesus and His true return had been brought to my attention, I was able to see how deceived I was. By understanding that there is a false Christ trying to counterfeit the true Christ’s return, I was able to renounce the false Christ I had been following and commit my life to the true Jesus Christ.13

5) Rick Warren and John Marks Templeton
Rick Warren unwittingly lent himself to the “purposes” of New Age sympathizer John Marks Templeton, as shown in Deceived on Purpose:

Even as I write, [New Age leader] Neale Donald Walsch’s New Age colleague Wayne Dyer is teaching the principles of the New Spirituality to an unsuspecting American public on a 3-hour PBS television special. His subject? The power of intention and purpose. While Dyer was cleverly presenting the New Spirituality by talking about the power of “purpose,” Rick Warren was judging a “Power of Purpose” essay contest for the New Age-based Templeton Foundation. John Templeton—with his strong New Age and metaphysical leanings—believes in a “shared divinity between God and humanity.”14

I pointed out that the late Templeton had been featured on the cover of Robert Schuller’s Possibilities magazine and was described as “my wonderful role model” by Neale Donald Walsch.

6) Robert Schuller’s Influence on Rick Warren
I discovered that Rick Warren had been greatly influenced by Robert Schuller and that he frequently used unattributed material from Schuller’s writings. In promoting his 2004 Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership, Schuller stated that Warren was a graduate of his Institute.15 Furthermore, on an April 4, 2004 Hour of Power television broadcast, Schuller described how Warren had come to his Institute for Successful Church Leadership “time after time.”16 And Rick Warren’s wife, Kay, was quoted in a 2002 Christianity Today article saying that Schuller “had a profound influence on Rick.”17

In reading Schuller’s past writings, it soon became apparent that Schuller had indeed greatly influenced Rick Warren’s ministry and that Warren often used Schuller’s material without any attribution to Schuller.

One of the many examples where Warren emulates Schuller’s material can be seen in the following comparison of their writings. In his 1982 book Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, Robert Schuller writes:

Our very survival “as a species depends on hope. And without hope we will lose the faith that we can cope.”18

Twenty years later in his 2002 book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren writes:

Hope is as essential to your life as air and water. You need hope to cope.19

Another example of how Rick Warren mirrors Robert Schuller is found in Warren’s 1995 book The Purpose Driven Church. He concludes his book by writing:

Accept the challenge of becoming a purpose-driven church! The greatest churches in history are yet to be built.20

Rick Warren’s statement is almost a direct quote from Schuller’s 1986 book Your Church Has A Fantastic Future!, which quotes a pastor saying:

Ten years ago, I heard Dr. Robert Schuller say at his leadership conference, “The greatest churches in the world are yet to be built!”21

These are just two of many other examples I found where Rick Warren uses unattributed material from Schuller’s writings and teachings. In Deceived on Purpose, I wrote:

The more I read Robert Schuller, the more I was shocked at how so many of Rick Warren’s thoughts, ideas, references, words, terms, phrases, and quotes in The Purpose Driven Life seemed to be directly inspired by Schuller’s writings and teachings.22

7) Rick Warren and Robert Schuller’s “New Reformation” & “God’s Dream”
Rick Warren’s proposed “New Reformation” and his “God’s Dream” Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan are strikingly similar to Robert Schuller’s proposed “New Reformation” and his “God’s Dream” plan “to redeem society.” The only real difference between their basic plans is that Schuller proposed his “New Reformation” and “God’s Dream” plan twenty years previous to Warren. In his 1982 book Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, Schuller called for a “New Reformation” in the church.23 To accomplish this New Reformation he frequently invoked the metaphor “God’s Dream” to describe God’s “great plan to redeem society.”24 Twenty years later, Warren was also calling for a “New Reformation” in the church.25 To accomplish his proposed New Reformation, Warren also invoked the “God’s Dream” metaphor that Schuller had used over two decades earlier to describe his New Reformation and his “plan.”26 Warren described his new reformational P.E.A.C.E. Plan as “God’s Dream For You—And The World!,”27 which also happens to resemble the PEACE Plan proposed by Neale Donald Walsch.

In Deceived on Purpose, I wrote:

Following Schuller’s forty-year commitment to his church, Rick Warren made a forty-year commitment to the Saddleback community. He “grew” his mega-church by faithfully implementing all that he had learned from Schuller. . . . Now Schuller’s concept of “God’s Dream” was being used to inspire millions of Christians to get behind his [Warren’s] 5-Step P.E.A.C.E. Plan to “change the world”—a 5-Step P.E.A.C.E. Plan that, on paper, bore an eerie resemblance to the 5-Step PEACE Plan proposed by Neale Donald Walsch and his New Age “God.”28

8) New Age Embraces Schuller’s New Reformation
In Neale Donald Walsch’s 2002 book, The New Revelations, Walsch and his New Age “God” praise Robert Schuller’s ministry and laud Schuller’s call for a New Reformation. Walsch describes how he and his “God” are also calling for a “New Reformation.” In fact, they commend Schuller and believe that Schuller’s New Reformation can merge with their plan to help bridge the divide between the Christian church and the teachings of the New Age/New Spirituality. They also present their New Reformation in the form of a 5-Step PEACE Plan29 that is similarly put forth in the form of an acronym—much like Rick Warren’s 5-Step P.E.A.C.E. Plan.30 In The New Revelations: A Conversation with God, Walsch, in a conversation with his “God,” states:

Rev. Robert H. Schuller, the American Christian minister who founded the famous Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, said twenty years ago in his book Self-Esteem: The New Reformation that what is needed is a second reformation within the Church, to move it away from its message of fear and guilt, retribution, and damnation, and toward a theology of self-esteem.31

Walsch quotes Schuller as saying that the “church” is “failing at the deepest level to generate within human beings that quality of personality that can result in the kinds of persons that would make our world a safe and sane society.”32 Walsch continues his conversation with “God” about Robert Schuller:

Dr. Schuller went on to suggest that “sincere Christians and church-persons can find a theological launching point of universal agreement if they can agree on the universal right and uncompromising need of every person to be treated with great respect simply because he or she is a human being!”33

Walsch then calls Schuller an “extraordinary minister” and quotes him again as saying:

“As a Christian, a theologian, and a churchman within the Reformed tradition, I must believe that it is possible for the church to exist even though it may be in serious error in substance, strategy, style or spirit.”34

Walsch adds:

But, he [Schuller] said, ultimately “theologians must have their international, universal, transcreedal, transcultural, transracial standard.”35

Walsch’s “God” answers Walsch:

Rev. Schuller was profoundly astute in his observations and incredibly courageous in making them public. I hope he is proud of himself!

I suggest that such an international, universal, transcreedal, transcultural, transracial standard for theology is the statement: “We Are All One. Ours is not a better way, ours is merely another way.”

This can be the gospel of a New Spirituality. It can be a kind of spirituality that gives people back to themselves.36

I do not believe it is just coincidence that Neale Donald Walsch—like Robert Schuller and Rick Warren—is also calling for a New Reformation. Nor do I believe it is a coincidence that Walsch and his “God” identify with Schuller and suggest Schuller’s New Reformation as a prototype for their PEACE Plan. Nor do I believe it is a coincidence that Warren has also used Schuller’s New Reformation as the prototype for his P.E.A.C.E. Plan and that both the New Age and Warren have devised 5-Step PEACE Plans to encourage their mutual calls for a New Reformation.
Other New Age leaders, like Bernie Siegel and Gerald Jampolsky also praise Robert Schuller and endorse his writings and teachings.37 Jampolsky and Schuller have mutually endorsed each other’s books.38 In his book Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, Schuller favorably cites Jampolsky and praises the New Age leader for his “profound theology.”39 Yet it is Jampolsky who first introduced me to the teachings of A Course in Miracles when I was in the New Age movement. I would later discover to my amazement that A Course in Miracle groups were meeting on the grounds of Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral back in 1985.40 I would also learn that Schuller has had an ongoing relationship with his “dear friend” Gerald Jampolsky from the early 1980s up through the present day.41 And it is not surprising that Bernie Siegel—the New Age leader Rick Warren cites in The Purpose Driven Life—had been a long-time member of the Board of Advisors for Jampolsky’s A Course in Miracles-based New Age Attitudinal Healing Centers.42

9) The Implications of Schuller’s Influence on Rick Warren
It became evident to me that Rick Warren was incorporating Robert Schuller’s plans and teachings into the Evangelical church. Whether it is “God’s Dream,” God “in” everything, the “New Reformation,” or something else, the non-referenced writings and teachings of Robert Schuller have been gradually introduced into the Evangelical church through Rick Warren. In Deceived on Purpose, I wrote:

[I]t seemed that one of Rick Warren’s unstated purposes was to mainstream Robert Schuller’s teachings into the more traditional “Bible-based” wing of the Church. Many believers who seem to trust Rick Warren, ironically, do not trust Robert Schuller. Rick Warren’s “magic” seems to be able to make the teachings of Robert Schuller palatable to believers who would have otherwise never accepted these same teachings had they come directly from Schuller himself.43

Recognizing the overwhelming influence that Robert Schuller has had on Rick Warren and thousands of other pastors, I explain in Deceived on Purpose that “The Purpose Driven Church campaign to enlist every man, woman and child into its ranks to ‘do’ the P.E.A.C.E. Plan and to ‘do’ God’s Dream did not have its origins at Saddleback Church or in the singly inspired mind of Rick Warren.”44 The spiritual foundation of the Purpose Driven movement can be found in the writings and teachings of Schuller’s fifty-year ministry. While Warren and other Christian leaders and organizations “forge new Purpose-Driven alliances around the world, the real architect of this seemingly unsinkable Purpose-Driven ship sits quietly in his office at the Crystal Cathedral.”45

I found it very ironic that while evangelical pastors were studying and speaking at Schuller’s Institute for Successful Church Leadership, A Course in Miracles groups were also meeting in Crystal Cathedral classrooms. Apparently, these pastors “thought that Schuller knew what he was doing because he had a big ‘successful’ church, and they wanted one, too.”46

10) A Serious Concern—A Sober Warning
I concluded Deceived on Purpose by stressing that it is not too late for Rick Warren to recognize how he has been influenced by Robert Schuller and by New Age teachings that are taking the church into the New Spirituality. I wrote:

He [Warren] could open many people’s eyes if he started to expose the differences between biblical Christianity and the deceptive teachings of the New Age and its New Spirituality.47

However, I presented a sober warning regarding Rick Warren and other Christian leaders who remain in denial about the very real threat of this pervasive spiritual deception that will seriously endanger many who are trusting in their judgment. I explained:

Sadly, if Rick Warren and other Christian leaders fall for New Age schemes and devices rather than exposing them, they will take countless numbers of sincere people down with them. It will be the blind leading the blind, as they fall further and further into the deceptive ditch of the New Age and its New Spirituality. Undiscerning Christians, who think they are on “the narrow way” preparing the way for Jesus Christ, may discover too late that they had actually been on “the broad way” preparing the way for Antichrist. It is not too late to warn everyone, but it must be done soon before the deception advances any further.48

It’s Not About Rick Warren
When Deceived on Purpose was published in August 2004, I knew the book would be controversial. The New Age implications I had discussed—particularly in regard to Robert Schuller’s influence on Rick Warren—had not to my knowledge been raised before. As I stated in Deceived on Purpose, my concerns were not personal issues (Matthew 18) between Rick Warren and myself. Because Warren’s book was in the public arena and had been sold and distributed to millions of people, I was approaching Warren and his readers in that same public arena. I wrote my comments respectfully and backed them with Scripture and primary source material. In his previous book The Purpose Driven Church, Warren had written, “I try to learn from critics.”49 Therefore, I hoped he would seriously consider the New Age implications I had brought out regarding his Purpose Driven movement. Would he begin to see what the New Age was really doing? Would he make some adjustments in the way he was presenting things? Would he recognize the necessity to protect the church from the New Age/New Spirituality?

Ultimately, Deceived on Purpose wasn’t about Rick Warren. It was about the schemes of our spiritual adversary—an adversary that the Bible refers to as Satan and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It was about how this adversary uses undiscerning church leaders like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and others to further his cunningly devised New Age/New Spirituality. But would Warren and his Saddleback staff recognize how they were being used? And what would be their response—if any—to my book? After Deceived on Purpose was released, it didn’t take long to get my answers.

(This is chapter 1 of A “Wonderful” Deception. For preface, introduction, chapter 1 and endnotes in a printable format, click here.

Related Information:

More on the Purpose Driven Paradigm and Rick Warren’s “New Reformation

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