Posts Tagged ‘metaphysics’

Before Watching The Shack Movie, Read This – The “Inspiration” Behind the Movie and Eugene Peterson’s Connection

By Warren B. Smith

The Shack Movie

I was drawn into the New Age Movement years ago by books and lectures containing parabolic stories that were not unlike The Shack. They felt spiritually uplifting as they tackled tough issues and talked about God’s love and forgiveness. They seemed to provide me with what I spiritually needed as they gave me much needed hope and promise. Building on the credibility they achieved through their inspirational and emotive writings, my New Age authors and teachers would then go on to tell me that “God” is “in” everyone and everything.

I discovered that author William P. Young does exactly the same thing in The Shack. He moves through his very engaging and emotional story to eventually present this same New Age teaching that God is “in” everything.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me first provide some background material concerning this key New Age doctrine that “God is in everything.” A good place to start is with Eugene Peterson, the author of the controversial Bible paraphrase The Message. After all, Peterson’s enthusiastic endorsement of The Shack is featured right under the author’s name on the front cover.

Ironically, it was Peterson’s endorsement that caused me to be immediately suspicious of The Shack. Through his questionable paraphrasing of the Bible, Peterson had already aligned himself in a number of areas with New Age/New Spirituality teachings. One obvious example is where he translated a key verse in the Lord’s Prayer to read “as above, so below” rather than “in earth, as it is in heaven.” “As above, so below” is a term that I was very familiar with from my previous involvement in the New Age movement. This esoteric saying has been an occult centerpiece for nearly five thousand years. It is alleged by New Age metaphysicians to be the key to all magic and all mysteries. It means that God is not only transcendent—“out there”— but He is also immanent—“in” everyone and everything.

But, as I found out just before abandoning the deceptive teachings of the New Age for the Truth of biblical Christianity, God is not “in” everyone and everything. The Bible makes it clear that man is not divine and that man is not God (Ezekiel 28:2, Hosea 11:9, John 2:24-25, etc.) In my book Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Church, I quoted the editors of New Age Journal as they defined “as above, so below” in their book, As Above, So Below:

“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.2

My concern about Peterson’s undiscerning use of “as above, so below” in the Lord’s Prayer was underscored when the 2006 bestseller, The Secret, showcased this same occult/New Age phrase. In fact, it was the introductory quote at the very beginning of the book. By immediately featuring “as above, so below” the author Rhonda Byrne was telling her readers in definite New Age language that “God is in everyone and everything.” Towards the end of the book, The Secret puts into more practical words what the author initially meant by introducing the immanent concept of “as above, so below.” On page 164, The Secret tells its readers—“You are God in a physical body.”

Most significantly, in his book The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom, New Age leader Benjamin Crème reveals that a New World Religion will be based on this foundational “as above, so below” teaching of immanence—this idea that God is “in” everyone and everything:

But eventually a new world religion will be inaugurated which will be a fusion and synthesis of the approach of the East and the approach of the West. The Christ will bring together, not simply Christianity and Buddhism, but the concept of God transcendent—outside of His creation—and also the concept of God immanent in all creation—in man and all creation.3

New Age matriarch Alice Bailey, in her book The Reappearance of the Christ, wrote:

. . . a fresh orientation to divinity and to the acceptance of the fact of God Transcendent and God Immanent within every form of life. “These are foundational truths upon which the world religion of the future will rest.4

In a November 9, 2003 Hour of Power sermon—just two months before he was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals—Crystal Cathedral minister Robert Schuller unabashedly aligned himself with this same New Age/New World Religion teaching. The man who claims to have mentored thousands of pastors, including Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, stated:

You know in theology—pardon me for using a couple of big words—but in theology the God we believe in, this God of Abraham, is a transcendent God. But He is also an immanent God. Transcendent means up there, out there, above us all. But God is also an immanent God—immanence of God and the transcendence of God—but then you have a balanced perspective of God. The immanence of God means here, in me, around me, in society, in the world, this God here, in the humanities, in the science, in the arts, sociology, in politics—the immanence of God. . . . Yes, God is alive and He is in every single human being!5

But God is not in every single human being. God is not in everything. One of the many reasons I wrote Deceived on Purpose was because Rick Warren presented his readers with this same “God in everything” teaching. Quoting an obviously flawed New Century Bible translation of Ephesians 4:6, Rick Warren—whether he meant to or not—was teaching his millions of readers the foundational doctrine of the New World Religion. Describing God in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, he wrote:

He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything.6

Compounding the matter further, “immanence” has been taught as part of the Foundations class at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. An ill-defined reference to immanence in the Saddleback Foundations Participants Guide plays right into the hands of the New Spirituality/New World Religion by stating:

The fact that God stands above and beyond his creation does not mean he stands outside his creation. He is both transcendent (above and beyond his creation) and immanent (within and throughout his creation).7

All of this discussion I am giving about “God in everything” immanence is to explain why The Shack is such a deceptive book. It teaches this same heresy. This book ostensibly attempts to deal with the deeply sensitive issues surrounding the murder of a young child. Because of the author’s intensely personal story line, most readers become engaged with the book on a deep emotional level. However, the author’s use of poetic license to convey his highly subjective, and often unbiblical, spiritual views becomes increasingly problematic as the story line develops. This is most apparent when he uses the person of “Jesus” to suddenly introduce the foundational teaching of the New Spirituality/New World Religion—God is “in” everything. Using the New Age term “ground of being” to describe “God,” the “Jesus” of The Shack states:

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.8

This false teaching about a “God” who “dwells in, around, and through all things” is the kind of New Age leaven that left unchallenged could leaven the church into the New Age/New Spirituality of the proposed New World Religion. And while many people have expressed a great deal of emotional attachment to The Shack and its characters—this leaven alone contaminates the whole book.

Clearly, the “Jesus” of The Shack is not Jesus Christ of the Bible. The apostle Paul chided the Corinthians and warned them that they were vulnerable and extremely susceptible to “another Jesus” and “another gospel” and “another spirit” that were not from God (2 Corinthians 11:4). In the Bible, the real Jesus Christ warned that spiritual deception would be a sign before His return. He further warned that there would be those who would even come in His name, pretending to be Him (Matthew 24:3-5, 24).

Without ascribing any ill motive to William Young and his book The Shack, the author’s use of spiritual creativity seems to give a “Christian” assent to the New Age/New Spirituality of the proposed New World Religion. His mixing of truth and error can become very confusing to readers, and God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Dr. Harry Ironside, pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948, emphasizes the fact that truth mixed with error results in “all error”—a direct refutation of the Emergent Church teaching to find “truth” wherever it may be found—including books like The Shack. Ironside wrote:

Error is like leaven, of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.9

The Shack has touched the hearts and emotions of many people. While there are many other examples of the author’s unbiblical liberality, introducing the heretical New Age teaching that “God dwells in, and around, and through all things” is in and by itself enough to completely undermine any value the book might otherwise have for faithful believers. To allow yourself to get carried away by this story, while disregarding the book’s New Age/New Spirituality leaven, is to fall prey to the “truth-and-error” mixture that pervades The Shack. And as Dr. Ironside warned—“God hates such a mixture!”

Before Christians buy one more copy of this book, they need to come to terms with what this author is ultimately teaching and what it is they are passing along to their friends and fellow believers.

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:4) For footnotes or to read this entire article about The Shack, click here.

When Mysticism Fills the Vacuum of Nominal Christianity

By Ray Yungen

Why are the mainstream denominations so open to meditative and holistic practices? A professor of theology at a United Methodist college gave this explanation:

A spiritual vacuum exists in organized religion that might be filled by theologies that draw—for better or worse—from what is called parapsychology, paranormal studies, psychic phenomena and, somewhat pejoratively, the “New Age” movement.1

New Agers have become very much aware of this “spiritual vacuum” and have directed their efforts toward filling it. Metaphysical leader James Fadiman makes the following observation:

The traditional religious world is just beginning to make changes, but it’s a slow process—denomination by denomination. When religious institutions begin to lose members year after year, they eventually become aware that they’re not meeting people’s needs. Before long they’re scurrying around looking for innovative programs and improvements.2

Even atheists have observed this trend. Science-fiction writer Richard E. Geis comments in his personal journal that:

The mainstream Christians are lip-service religions in the main, convenience religions, social religions, and they are the ones most subject to erosion and defections and infiltration and subversion. A large and successful effort seems to have been made by the occultists’ New Age planners to dilute and alter the message of most of the mainstream Christian religions.3

This is made evident by a quote which appeared in a newspaper interview with the owner of a New Age bookstore. She reveals:

A lot of people come in who are very Christian. They are looking, by whatever means, to move closer to God on an individual basis.4

This shows that a great number of people who consider themselves to be Christians have a rather dull and dreary attitude toward their faith. They are looking for something to fill the void.

One of the foremost individuals who has attempted to fill this void with the New Age is Marcus Borg, professor and author of many widely read books. In one of them, The God We Never Knew, he lays out very concisely how he went from being a traditional Christian to a “mature” Christian. He relates:

I learned from my professors and the readings they assigned that Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world. . . . By the time I was thirty, like Humpty Dumpty, my childhood faith had fallen into pieces. My life since has led to a quite different understanding of what the Christian tradition says about God.5

Like multitudes of liberal or nominal Christians who believe as he does, Borg turned to mysticism to fill the spiritual vacuum that his way of thinking inevitably leads to. Borg reveals:

I learned about the use of mantras as a means of giving the mind something to focus and refocus on as it sinks into silence.6

This is a recurring theme in all his books, including his very influential book, The Heart of Christianity. Even though Marcus Borg would certainly not call himself a New Ager, his practices and views on God would be in line with traditional New Age thought (i.e., God is in everything and each person is a receptacle of the Divine, which is accessed through meditation).

Borg is not some Hindu guru or counter-culture type personality. He represents the mainstream for millions of people in liberal churches. But his spiritual platform is pure New Age as he makes clear when he expounds:

The sacred is not “somewhere else” spatially distant from us. Rather, we live within God . . . God has always been in relationship to us, journeying with us, and yearning to be known by us. Yet we commonly do not know this or experience this. . . . We commonly do not perceive the world of Spirit. (emphasis mine)7

This perception is, of course, as I have shown in other articles, the outcome of mantra-induced silence.

The following is another barometer of Christian tolerance to New Age ideas. The late psychologist M. Scott Peck wrote a phenomenal best seller on psychology and spiritual growth titled The Road Less Traveled. The book contains insights and suggestions for dealing with life’s problems, which is why it has generated the interest it has. But the book also incorporates the central theme of the Ancient Wisdom:

God wants us to become himself (or Herself or Itself). We are growing toward godhood. God is the goal of evolution. It is God who is the source of the evolutionary force and God who is the destination. This is what we mean when we say that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.. . .

It is one thing to believe in a nice old God who will take good care of us from a lofty position of power which we ourselves could never begin to attain. It is quite another to believe in a God who has it in mind for us precisely that we should attain His position, His power, His wisdom, His identity.8

Madame Blavatsky and Alice Bailey could not have said it any better. Peck revealed where he was coming from when he said, “But [The Road] is a sound New Age book, not a flaky one.”9 This book, which was on the New York Times best seller list for over 400 weeks, has been incredibly popular in Christian circles for years. Peck himself said the book sells best in the Bible Belt.

Endnotes:
1. David R. Griffen, San Francisco Sunday Punch, March 8, 1987.
2. James Fadiman (Science of Mind, June 1988), p. 77.
3. Richard E. Geis’ personal journal, “The Naked Id.”
4. “New Age Isn’t New to Salem” (Statesman Journal newspaper article, Salem, Oregon, March 9, 1991), p. 2-A.
5. Marcus Borg, The God We Never Knew (New York, NY: Harper Collins, First HarperCollins Paperback edition, 1998), pp. 25, 29.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. M. Scott Peck, M.D., The Road Less Traveled (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1978), p. 270.
9. Charles Leerhsen, “Peck’s Path to Inner Peace” (Newsweek, November 18, 1985), p.79.

Understanding the Age of Aquarius and Metaphysics

by Ray Yungen

The term New Age is based on astrology. Those who believe in astrology believe in cosmic cycles called Astrological Ages, in which earth passes through a cycle or time period when it is under the influence of a certain sign of the zodiac. These Ages last approximately 2,000 years, with a cusp or transitory period between each.

Those who embrace astrology say that for the last 2,000 years we have been in the sign of “Pisces” the fish. Now they say we are moving into the sign of “Aquarius” or the Age of Aquarius, hence the New Age.

The Aquarian Age is supposed to signify that the human race is now entering a Golden Age. Many occultists have long heralded the Aquarian Age as an event that would be significant to humanity. That is why one New Age writer states:

[A] basic knowledge of Astrological Ages is of enormous importance in occult work.1

They believe that during these transitions certain cosmic influences begin to flow into the mass consciousness of mankind and cause changes to occur in accordance with the spiritual keynote or theme of that particular Age. This phenomenon is known as planetary transformation—an event they believe will bring universal oneness to all mankind. The view is that as more and more members of the human race attune themselves to Aquarian energies, the dynamics of the old age will begin to fade out.

To just what energies are we supposed to attune ourselves? New Age thought teaches that everything that exists, seen or unseen, is made up of energy—tiny particles of vibrating energy, atoms, molecules, protons, etc. All is energy. That energy, they believe, is God, and therefore, all is God. They believe that since we are all part of this God-energy, then we, too, are God. God is not seen as a Being that dwells in heaven, but as the universe itself. According to one writer, “Simply put, God functions in you, through you, and as you.”2

The Age of Aquarius is when we are all supposed to come to the understanding that man is God. As one New Age writer put it:

A major theme of Aquarius is that God is within. The goal in the Age of Aquarius will be how to bring this idea into meaningful reality. 3

To fully comprehend the above concept, one has to understand  its essence, which is built on a belief system commonly referred to as metaphysics. The word translates as meta—above or beyond, and physical—the seen or material world. So metaphysics relates to that which exists or is real, but is unseen. In the book,  Metaphysics: The Science of Life, one practitioner describes metaphysics as the existence of “forces and principles that are hidden from the five senses, … thus requiring an altered state of consciousness, and consequently,  ‘known to very few.’”4

Although the word metaphysics is also used in non-New Age connotations, it is used in reference to the occult arts so often that the two have become interchangeable. From now on, when I use the term metaphysics, I am referring to New Age metaphysics.

Metaphysics concerns itself with the spiritual evolution of the human soul. This is called the law of rebirth, more commonly known as reincarnation.

Metaphysical proponents teach there is the seen world known as the physical or material plane and the unseen world with its many different planes. They teach the astral plane is where people go after death to await their next incarnation or bodily state.
Metaphysical thought holds the view that we are constantly caught up in a cycle of coming from the astral plane, being born, living, dying, and returning to the astral existence. They believe that the reason for repeating this cycle is to learn lessons that are necessary for our evolutionary training.

The earth plane is supposed to be the ultimate school. If a person flunks one incarnation, he must make up for it in the next cycle. This is called the law of karma. Reincarnation and karma are always linked together as there cannot be one without the other. The end result is: there is no evil, only lessons to learn.

What is the main lesson? That you are God. This is the basic tenet of metaphysical thought. The ultimate goal in metaphysics is attuning oneself to higher consciousness thereby gaining an awareness of these higher worlds or realms. How does one go about learning this? How is this perception achieved? According to New Age beliefs, the most direct way to achieve this is through the practice of meditation. Meditation is the basic activity that underlies all metaphysics and is the primary source of spiritual direction for the New Age person. We need only observe the emphasis that is placed on meditation to see the significance of its role in New Age thought:

Meditation is the doorway between worlds … the pathway between dimensions.5

Meditation is the key—the indispensable key—to the highest states of awareness.6

Meditation is a key ingredient to metaphysics, as it is the single most important act in a metaphysicians life.7

What exactly is meditation? The meditation many of us are familiar with involves a deep, continuous thinking about something. But New Age meditation does just the opposite. It involves ridding oneself of all thoughts in order to still the mind by putting it in pause or neutral. An analogy would be turning a fast-moving stream into a still pond by damming the free flow of water. This is the purpose of New Age meditation. It holds back active thought and causes a shift in consciousness. The following explanation makes this process very clear:

One starts by silencing the mind—for many, this is not easy, but when the mind has become silent and still, it is then possible for the Divine Force to descend and enter into the receptive individual. First it trickles in, and later, in it comes in waves.  It is both transforming and cleansing; and it is through this force that divine transformation will be achieved.8

This condition is not to be confused with daydreaming, where the mind dwells on a particular subject. New Age meditation works differently in that an object acts as a holding mechanism until the mind becomes thoughtless, empty—silent.

English mystic Brother Mandus wrote of his adventure into these realms in his book This Wondrous Way of Life.  He spoke of being “fused in Light,” which he described as “the greatest experience in my life” that gave him “Ecstasy transcending anything I could understand or describe.9

In order to grasp what this movement really entails the reader must understand what was happening to Brother Mandus. He wasn’t merely believing something on the intellectual level, he was undergoing a supernatural transformation. In truth, he had created a mental void through meditation, and a spiritual force had filled it.

The two most common methods used to induce this thoughtless state are breathing exercises, in which attention is focused on the breath, and a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. The basic process is to focus and maintain concentration without actually thinking about what is being focused on. Repetition on the focused object triggers the blank mind.

Just consider the word mantra. The translation from the Sanskrit is man, meaning “to think” and tra, meaning “to be liberated from.”10 Thus, the word means to be freed from thought. By repeating the mantra, either aloud or silently, the word or phrase begins to lose any meaning it once had. The same is true with rhythmic breathing. One gradually tunes out his conscious thinking process until an altered state of consciousness comes over him.

I recall watching a martial arts class where the instructor clapped his hands once every three seconds as the students sat in meditation. The sound of the clap acted the same as the breath or a mantra would—something to focus their attention on to stop the active mind.

Other methods of meditation involve drumming, dancing, and chanting. This percussion-sound meditation is perhaps the most common form for producing trance states in the African, North/South American Indian, and Brazilian spiritist traditions. In the Islamic world, the Sufi Mystic Brotherhoods have gained a reputation for chanting and ritual dancing. They are known as the Whirling Dervishes. The Indian Guru, Rajneesh, developed a form of active meditation called dynamic meditation, which combines the percussion sound, jumping, and rhythmic breathing. . . .

What we are witnessing is unprecedented in human history. Certain conditions have caused this flowering and brought society to a place where it is now open to the New Age like never before.

(Taken from For Many Shall Come in My Name, chapter 1)

Notes:

1.   Marion Weinstein, Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help (Custer, WA: Phoenix Pub., Inc., 1978), p. 19.
2.   Anthony J. Fisichella, Metaphysics: The Science of Life (St. Paul,  MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1984), p. 28.
3.    Weinstein, Positive Magic, p. 25.
4.    Anthony J. Fisichella, Metaphysics: The Science of Life, p. 11.
5.   Celeste G. Graham, The Layman’s Guide to Enlightenment (Phoenix, AZ: Illumination Pub., 1980), p. 13.
6.    Ananda’s Expanding Light, Program Guide (The Expanding Light  retreat center, California, April-December 1991), p. 5.
7.   The College of Metaphysical Studies website, “Frequently Asked Questions About Metaphysics, Spirituality and Shamanism”       (http://www.cms. edu/faq.html, accessed 03/2007).
8.    “Yoga, Meditation, and Healing: A Talk with Joseph Martinez” (Holistic Health Magazine, Winter 1986), p. 9.
9.  Brother Mandus, The Wondrous Way of Life (London, UK: L.  N. Fowler & Co. LTD, 14th Edition, 1985), p. 28.
10.  Swami Rama, Freedom From the Bondage of Karma (Glenview,  IL: Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of U.S.A., 1977), p. 66.


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