Posts Tagged ‘panentheism’

Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Richard Foster – Are We Wrong in Calling Them Emergent/Contemplative?

Recently, we were asked to give an account as to why Dallas Willard (d. 2013), Richard Foster, and John Ortberg were listed in Roger Oakland’s booklet How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church as part of the emerging church. 

We would first like to say that it is understandable how someone could take offense to these men being named in a booklet on the emerging church. All three have stated that they love Jesus and have often used Scriptures in their writings and lectures. So why say they are part of the emerging church?

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard

Richard Foster (l); Dallas Willard (r)

The Real Crux of the Matter

The real crux of this matter comes down to the contemplative prayer movement, which because it has its roots in panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God)  as we have been able to document in our writings these past many years, it is basically a synonym for the emerging church. In fact, without contemplative prayer, the emerging church would not have had the success (if you will) that it has had because contemplative prayer is the force that drives it. And given the fact that there are so many variables equal between the two, if someone is a proponent of contemplative prayer, we classify him as part of the emerging church. Many people mistakenly think that the emerging church would just be those of the caliber of Brian McLaren or Rob Bell. But we cannot agree with this at all. We believe the documentation we have gathered these past 15 years clearly shows that the two movements are one in the same.

That being said, one of the problems is that many Christians do not  understand what contemplative spirituality is. They believe that contemplative prayer is just prayer that contemplates (ponders) the things of God. Or that it is likened to a time of solitude (e.g., a quiet time with the Lord, perhaps sitting by a creek or turning off the radio). But contemplative prayer, as Richard Foster has very often made clear in his writings, is a practice that requires one to remove all distractions of the mind by practicing some type of mantric-like meditation (breath prayers, centering prayer, lectio divina, etc) and allowing the mind to enter a neutral state where all thought is gone. If contemplative prayer were just normal, but perhaps more focused, prayer, then why has there been so much differentiation in the church regarding it, whereas now through Spiritual Formation programs, countless Christian colleges and seminaries have brought contemplative spirituality into their schools?

If we could establish that this type of extra-biblical prayer is similar to an eastern-style meditation that Christians should not be engaged in, we would need to then look to see how this has entered the church and through whom. At this point, we would like to recommend two articles we have written that concisely explain and document 1) the roots of contemplative prayer and the connection between it and eastern style and occultic meditation, and 2) the significant role that Richard Foster has played in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical church. Here are the links to those two articles: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18192 and  http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17941. Each of the articles is filled with many quotes (none taken out of context) so that it isn’t just our opinion but is coming right from the sources themselves.

Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

Dallas Willard (l); John Ortberg (r)

Now, about Dallas Willard (John Ortberg is a disciple of Willard so we will not bring him into this letter for sake of not allowing this article to get too lengthy – see the end of this article for some Ortberg links).  What we have to say about Dallas Willard is really only going to be understood if one understands contemplative spirituality. Otherwise, we can show that Willard promotes contemplative spirituality, but if one does not realize what that term means, it may not mean much when we show Willard’s propensity for this mystical spirituality.

  1. In 1998, in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Dallas Willard made the following statement: “Indeed, solitude and silence are powerful means to grace. Bible study, prayer and church attendance, among the most commonly prescribed activities in Christian circles, generally have little effect for soul transformation, as is obvious to any observer. If all the people doing them were transformed to health and righteousness by it, the world would be vastly changed. Their failure to bring about the change is precisely because the body and soul are so exhausted, fragmented and conflicted that the prescribed activities cannot be appropriately engaged, and by and large degenerate into legalistic and ineffectual rituals. Lengthy solitude and silence, including rest, can make them very powerful.” (Dallas Willard,Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 1998, Vol. 26, #1, pp. 101-109. Also available in The Great Omission, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006)

Dallas Willard and Richard Foster together believed that what the church needs more than anything else is Spiritual Formation. As Richard Foster himself has stated (see the Foster booklet), the term Spiritual Formation came from the Catholic Church long before evangelicals used the term. For those who will read our article explaining what Spiritual Formation is, they will be able to see that Spiritual Formation (or the Spiritual Disciplines) is the vehicle that brings contemplative prayer to the church. Based on what we have witnessed in the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries, this has been a very successful effort. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16176

  1. In 2004, Ruth Haley Barton wrote a book titled Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Dallas Willard wrote the foreword. Barton, who was trained at the New Age/panentheistic Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC, also wrote the Spiritual Formation curriculum with John Ortberg for Willow Creek church after her training at Shalem. In Invitation to Silence and Solitude, Barton describes a wordless time of prayer that she calls the silence. “Take three long, deep breaths to help yourself settle into the silence.” (Kindle edition, Kindle location 689-690). It is very clear in her book that when she says silence, she is not talking about external silence; rather she is talking about stilling the mind so that there are no thoughts to distract us. Naturally, as humans, we cannot just turn off all thoughts. Our minds are thinking throughout our waking hours. The contemplative teaches that we must rid ourselves of these “distractions,” but we cannot do that without an aid. That aid is repeatedly saying a word or phrase (or focusing on the breath or an object)  for as much as 20 minutes (that’s how long author Gary Thomas tells readers to repeat their prayer word in his highly popular book Sacred Pathways):

    It is particularly difficult to describe this type of prayer in writing, as it is best taught in person. In general however, centering prayer works like this: Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing. (p. 185)

In Barton’s book, she references favorably several Catholic panentheistic mystics: Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, William Shannon, and others. For Dallas Willard to write the foreword to her book, he must have agreed with what she was writing in the book. He was a very learned, educated man (referred to as “one of today’s most brilliant Christian thinkers“) who must have known also who these mystics mentioned in her book were and what they believed.

  1. In fact, on Dallas Willard’s own website, there is a page of recommended resources. The page has been there for years and is still there today. http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. Here is an archive of the same page in 2010: https://web.archive.org/web/20100314131254/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. On that page, which obviously was what Dallas Willard himself recommended, are the names of several contemplative mystics and advocates of mantric-like meditation.

One of the recommended books, written by Jan Johnson, is Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness. Like Barton, Johnson is a long-time highly influential promoter of contemplative prayer. In the book, which by the way favorably references several mystics such as Anglican priest Kenneth Leech and even some New Age type figures (e.g., Gerald May and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), she says the following: “To listen to God requires experimentation and practice so that we develop ‘ears to hear’ . . .  Such practice involves Scripture study and meditation, prayer (especially contemplative prayer)”  (Kindle edition, Kindle Locations 399-400). Johnson also encourages breath prayers, lectio divina, and “practicing the presence.” Her book that Willard recommends is a primer on contemplative prayer; and in that book, for the more curious reader, she recommends her book When the Soul Listens where she states:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” (p. 16)

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. (p. 120)

We have never heard of a prayer in the Bible that would cause us to feel “unnerving.” This is typical language of and explanation by contemplatives. We know that those who practice occultic or eastern style meditation will often have experiences that could be described as unnerving. Richard Foster says that before one practices contemplative prayer, it is wise to say prayers of protection.(Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, pp. 155-157.) But where in Scripture are we instructed to pray prayers of protection from prayer?

In addition to Dallas Willard recommending Jan Johnson on his website, he also recommends Richard Foster, to whom he was closely connected, and mystics Madame Guyon, Evelyn Underhill, Teresa of Avila (who levitated because of her meditation practices), Henri Nouwen (who after years of practicing mysticism came to the conclusion that Jesus is not the only path to God – see his book Sabbatical Journey, p. 51), Ignatius (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius), and even Jungian occultist Agnes Sanford. How could Dallas Willard have Agnes Sanford’s occultic-promoting book The Healing Light on his website since at least as far back as 2004?! (https://web.archive.org/web/20041214164830/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp).

How many unsuspecting, trusting individuals have come across Dallas Willard’s webpage on his site recommending these people and been drawn into the teachings promoted by them?

One Final Example

We could provide many other examples showing Dallas Willard’s connection and advocacy to the contemplative prayer movement. Even Rick Warren acknowledged this in his first book The Purpose Driven Church where he identified Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as key players in the movement (p. 127).  But we’ll leave you with this final example. We hope and pray those reading this article will read some of the documentation we have provided in the links we’ve included. The evidence is there for those who are willing to study this matter. Roger Oakland was correct in including these names in his booklet on the emerging church.

  1. Our final example has to do with Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, a book that remains highly popular in Christian circles.  On the back cover of the book is an endorsement by goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd. Although the book was written several years ago, her name remains on the back cover of the book along with the name of her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. It is in that book that Sue Monk Kidd says God is in everything, even human excrement (pp. 160-163)! And in speaking about mysticism in that book, Monk Kidd says:

    As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess…. Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it’s known as samadhi…. Transcendence and immanence are not separate. The Divine is one. The dancer and all the dances are one. . . . The day of my awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God, and God in all things. (pp. 161-163, Dance of the Dissident Daughter)

Does Dance of the Dissident Daughter sound like a book that should be included on the back of a Christian book (The Spirit of the Disciplines)? Hardly! Dallas Willard is viewed as a great Christian scholar. But something is very amiss here. In addition to Monk Kidd’s endorsement on the back of The Spirit of the Disciplines, Willard favorably references inside the book panentheist Catholic monk Thomas Merton as well as Agnes Sanford. Although the book was originally published in 1988, we are referring to the 2009 Kindle edition, which was a mere eight years ago when Dallas Willard was still alive. In the book (see Bibliography), he has turned to the writings of numerous panentheistic mystics: Bernard of Clairvaux, The Cloud of Unknowing (a primer on contemplative prayer written by a Catholic monk centuries ago), The Desert Fathers, Harry Fosdick (who denied substitutionary atonement), Ignatius, Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, New Ager M. Scott Peck, Agnes Sanford, and others. Untold numbers of Christians have read The Spirit of the Disciplines, and they have been introduced to the writings of these mystics whose ideas are interwoven in the pages of this book. Incidentally, on Dallas Willard’s website, it states that The Spirit of the Disciplines is a companion book to Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline (where Foster says, “we should all without shame enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”).

What we have presented here is not guilt by association but is guilt by promotion and proxy. It is our estimation that Dallas Willard and Richard Foster have done a terrible disservice to the body of Christ and to the work and furtherance of the Gospel. We hope those reading this will take the time to study this matter out.

Related Links:

Letter to the Editor: What About John Ortberg’s Fully Devoted Book? My Pastor Wants to Use it

David Jeremiah Opens Pulpit to Contemplative Advocate John Ortberg

“Tough Questions” with Dallas Willard . . . and His Contemplative Propensities

More on John Ortberg

 

 

 

Universalistic Shack Therapy: Wm. Paul Young, Kahlil Gibran, and “The Great Sadness”

By Warren B. Smith

 William Paul Young writes that The Shack is “theology wrapped in story.”1 And his Shack theology presents a universalistic Shack Therapy for the “Great Sadness” that plagues his main character “Mack.” Young remarks in numerous interviews that, like Mack, most people have their own inner “shack” where they store their secrets and their own personal “Great Sadness.” This “Great Sadness” becomes Young’s personal metaphor for the inner pain and anguish locked within his and other people’s souls. Lebanese-American writer, artist, philosopher, and universalist Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) uses this same phrase—”great sadness”—in his 1926 book The Madman: His Parables and Poems. He wrote:

Then a great sadness came over the face of my soul, and into her voice.2

Kahlil Gibran, promoted in The ShackHowever, it seems that the derivation of Young’s phrase “The Great Sadness” was consciously or unconsciously taken from parts of two consecutive lines from yet another Gibran book that Young actually quoted from in The Shack. Chapter 4 in The Shack is titled “The Great Sadness.” Underneath this title, Young quotes a single line about “sadness” from Gibran’s work Sand and Foam—“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.”3 The next line—one that Young did not quote—has the word “great” in it: “When either your joy or your sorrow becomes great your world becomes small.”4 “Great” in the second line linked with “sadness” in the line directly above it creating Young’s term—“The Great Sadness.” Whether or not he realizes it, Young seems to have derived the phrase “Great Sadness” from the universalistic writings of Kahlil Gibran. In his essay “Your Thought and Mine,” Gibran writes:

Your thought advocates Judaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. In my thought there is only one universal religion, whose varied paths are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being.5

In the Acknowledgments section of The Shack, Young thanks Kahlil Gibran for his “creative stimulation.” He quotes Gibran not only in The Shack, but also in opening the very first chapter of his second novel Crossroads. Kahlil Gibran is best known for his perennial best-seller, The Prophet—a book that “has long been one of the bibles of the New-Age movement.”6 As a matter of fact, as former New Agers, Gibran’s book was a treasured part of our New Age library. What’s more, “New Age Pioneer” was the title of a 1998 New York Times book review about Gibran and his New Age influence.7 Robin Waterfield, an authority on Gibran and a consulting editor for religious and New Age publishers, wrote a definitive biography on Gibran that was the subject of the aforementioned New York Times book review. Waterfield’s book, Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran, described the biographer’s belief that Gibran was highly influential in the initial formation of the New Age Movement:

I suggest that Gibran has been one of the hidden influences on the New Age . . . I cannot say that without him the New Age movement would not have arisen, but it is, I think, safe to say that he has had an enormous influence on it.8

I think it is arguable that Gibran was one of the founding fathers of the New Age.9

Ten years after the release of The Shack, William Paul Young declared he was a believer in universal salvation.10 Sounding much like a New Age universalist, Young is now teaching the panentheistic and heretical New Age doctrines of Christ “in” everyone11 and God “in” all things.12 With The Shack being recently made into a movie and with Shack book sales now over 22 million copies, with countless radio and television interviews and church talks now under his belt, and with his own Restoring the Shack weekly TBN prime time television series, William Paul Young had done just about everything except appear on Oprah. But then he also did that. On July 9, 2017, Young was the featured guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday television program.13 The day after the program, Young suddenly announced—“I want to be more like Oprah.”14 And with that statement Shack lovers should be shocked that an avowed Christian would want to be “more like Oprah”—one of the most influential New Age leaders in the world today.15 But what most people don’t realize is that in regard to New Age universalism, William Paul Young is already like Oprah—and Kahlil Gibran—and this may be one of the greatest “Great Sadnesses” of all.

Endnotes

1. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited (New York, NY: FaithWords, 2012), p. xi.
2. Khalil Gibran, The Madman: His Parables and Poems (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2002, originally published in 1918 by Alfred A. Knopf, New York), p. 55.
3. Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam (Lexington, KY, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, originally published in 1926), p. 37. Note: William Paul Young left out the word “but” in quoting this line from Gibran’s work.
4. Ibid.
5. Kahlil Gibran, Short Works by Khalil Gibran (Your Thought and Mine). (newthoughtlibrary.com/gibranKhalil/shortWorks/shortWorks).
6. John Dodge, “Kahlil Gibran and the Fall of the Prophet” (Three Monkeys Online, www.threemonkeysonline.com/kahlil-gibran-and-the-fall-of-the-prophet/).
7. Liesl Schillinger, “Pioneer of the New Age” (The New York Times, December 13, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/13/reviews/981213.13schillt.html).
8. Robin Waterfield, Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p. 290.
9. Ibid., p. 289.
10. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017), p. 118.
11. Ibid., p. 119.
12. William P. Young, The Shack (Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
13. Oprah Winfrey, “Super Soul Sunday,” youtube July 9, 2017.
14. William P. Young personal blog, “I Want to Be More Like Oprah.” (http://wmpaulyoung.com/i-want-to-be-more-like-oprah-watch-interview/).
15. It should be noted that although Oprah Winfrey is an exceedingly powerful and influential New Age leader, she still persists in identifying herself as a Christian. But her Christianity is a New Age Christianity that is not biblically based and is no Christianity at all.

Related Material:

William Paul Young’s Christless “Shack”

Other articles on The Shack by Warren B. Smith

“The Shack” and a Cat Named Judas

William Paul Young

By Warren B. Smith   

The name Judas has been described as the most hated name in all the world. Except for Shack author William Paul Young and maybe a few exceptional others, hardly anybody ever names anyone or anything Judas. It is one of those forbidden names like Jezebel or Lucifer that people would never dream of naming their child, their dog—or their cat. The very name denotes a sense of treachery and betrayal. After all, Judas was the one who openly betrayed Jesus and paved the way for His crucifixion. So what was William Paul Young thinking? Why does The Shack’s most endearing character—Missy—have a cat named Judas?1 And it seems especially odd to have a cat with that name in a family where the mother’s faith is described as “deep”2 and Missy is asking sincere questions about Jesus’ death.3

Heresy and Betrayal

Young contends that The Shack is much more than a fictional novel. He describes The Shack as “theology wrapped in story.” He writes:

Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the Word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience.4

This is said in spite of the fact that Young’s Shack characters and Shack “theology” frequently mock God and God’s Word with their cryptic humor and clever interplay. To be perfectly blunt, the name Judas fits right in with much of what William Paul Young is teaching. Like Judas, Young betrays Jesus Christ and biblical Christianity with his heretical Shack theology—a Shack theology where there is, among other things, no Devil and no Christ. Neither of them can be found anywhere in the whole Shack story. The Devil is never mentioned because Young would have us believe that evil and darkness “do not have any actual existence.”5 And The Shack’s “Jesus” is never identified as Christ. In fact, the name of Christ is nowhere to be found in the whole Shack story.6

One well-known pastor gave an impassioned sermon about thirteen heresies he found in The Shack.7 One heresy he did not mention is perhaps the most egregious of all—the panentheistic proposition that God is “in” all things. Incredibly, William Paul Young puts this foundational doctrine of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion right in the mouth of The Shack’s “Jesus.” Young’s “Jesus” states—“God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.”8 But this is a false teaching. God is not “in” all things.9 For Young to put these heretical words in the mouth of The Shack’s “Jesus” is an absolute betrayal of the true Jesus Christ.

A Wonderful and Horrible Betrayal

Thus, as Young plays fast and loose with biblical Christianity, should we be surprised that he plays fast and loose with a name like Judas—a name that perfectly describes his role in today’s wayward church. What Young describes as “theology wrapped in story” is really biblical betrayal wrapped in a cunningly devised fable (2 Peter 1:16). The Shack is everything that the true Jesus Christ warned us to watch out for when he said to “be not deceived” (Luke 21:8). And that warning would seem to include authors like William Paul Young who think nothing at all about putting heretical New Age doctrines in Jesus’ mouth and naming a little girl’s cat Judas.

The Shack may seem “wonderful” to countless Shack readers, but in reality it is a betrayal of biblical Christianity and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah—The Shack may seem “wonderful,” but it is actually “horrible,” and yet the people “love to have it so.”

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)

To read other articles from The Shack series by Warren B. Smith, click here.

Endnotes

  1. William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 231.
  2. Ibid., p. 11.
  3. Ibid., p. 31.
  4. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream (New York: Faith Words), p. xi.
  5. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 136.
  6. Warren B. Smith, “The Christless Shack” (article posted at warrenbsmith.com).
  7. Michael Youssef, The Shack Uncovered: 13 Heresies Explained (PDF: https://store.ltw.org/p-315-the-shack-uncovered-13-heresies-explained-pdf.aspx) (Leading the Way Ministries, 2017).
  8. William P. Young, The Shack, op. cit., p.112.
  9. Warren B. Smith, Be Still and Know That You are Not God: God is Not “in” Everyone and Everything (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2015). This is a free online booklet that traces the history of the false teaching that God is “in” everything. It also offers a scriptural refutation of this heretical doctrine.

 

Shack Author Says “ I Want to Be More Like Oprah”

By Warren B. Smith

Oprah Winfrey interviewed Shack author William Paul Young on July 9, 2017 on her Super Soul Sunday television program that was broadcast on her OWN network. Young and Oprah appeared to be like two peas in a New Age pod as they talked of child abuse, traded spiritual quips, and seemed to continually marvel at the other’s brilliant insights. At one point midway in their conversation, Young answered his own rhetorical question regarding where Jesus dwells—he stated that “Jesus dwells in our hearts.” His quick, authoritative response was consistent not only with Oprah’s longstanding New Age beliefs but also with The Shack’s “Jesus” who presented this same New Age heresy when he stated that God “dwells in, around, and through all things.” This false teaching is the foundational teaching of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion. The Bible is very clear that God is not “in” everyone and everything.

As the show ended, Young leaned towards the world’s most influential New Age leader and exclaimed—“I so appreciate what you do! My goodness!” Later, in his personal blog, Young proudly titled his observations about the interview by writing—“I Want to Be More Like Oprah.” With Oprah  having done as much as any person in modern times to publicly push New Age occultism, Young’s gushing adulation of the New Age leader was extremely telling. While allegedly writing The Shack to teach his children what he believes and how he “thinks outside the box,” his interview with Oprah makes it very clear. Young doesn’t just think outside the box, he thinks outside the Bible. Wm. Paul Young—like Oprah Winfrey—is a proponent of a New Age “Christianity” that is not Christianity at all.

Related Articles and Research
Other Important Articles by Warren B. Smith on The Shack

William Paul Young’s Christless “Shack”

LTRP Note: Lighthouse Trails author Warren B. Smith wrote this article shortly before he had a heart attack a few weeks ago. The final editing of this article was obviously delayed. But with the growing interest in The Shack (book and movie), we are very grateful that Warren was able to finalize and submit this very important article to us a couple days ago. If you know people who are reading and being influenced by The Shack, please consider giving them some of the material Warren Smith has presented (see links below).

By Warren B. Smith

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)

The Holy Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the one and only Christ. He is the anointed one. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior. There is no other. This one and only Jesus Christ is referred to as Christ more than 500 times in the New Testament. In fact, the name Jesus Christ bookends the whole New Testament. The Bible’s Jesus is clearly identified as Christ in the first line of the first chapter of the Book of Matthew and in the last line of the last chapter of the Book of Revelation. But The Shack’s “Jesus” is never identified as Christ. In fact, the word “Christ” cannot be found anywhere in whole Shack story. William P. Young’s “Jesus” is not ever described—not even once—as the Jesus who has “a name which is above every name”—the full and complete name of Jesus Christ:

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 9-11)

A “Jesus” Who is Not Christ

Excluding the name of Christ from The Shack is pretty much what you would expect from a self-professed universalist like William P. Young.1 If Young had clearly identified The Shack’s “Jesus” as Christ, his universal “Jesus” would have lost his universal appeal. And that is because the “Jesus” of other religions and New Age teachings is “another Jesus” who is not Jesus Christ. In one example alone, Young’s “Jesus” proves himself to be “another Jesus” when he teaches Shack readers the New Age lie that God is “in” all things. Using The Shack’s “Jesus” as his mouthpiece, Young falsely teaches—“God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.”2 But God is not in all things. This is panentheism. This is universalism. This is heresy. It totally contradicts the teachings of the true Jesus Christ.3 The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians—and all of us—to beware of men like William Paul Young who come preaching and teaching about “another Jesus” who is not Christ. Paul said we “might just go along with him—we “might well bear with him”:

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

A Christ Who is Not Jesus
All of this is to say that when you don’t have a Jesus who is clearly identified as the Christ, you open the door to a “Christ” who is not Jesus. A perfect example of this type of anti-messiah “messiah” is the false Christ Maitreya. His alleged presence here on earth was announced in full page newspaper ads that ran in major cities across the world in 1982. All these many years later, he still claims to be the Christ and continues to wait for a troubled world to call him forth. As a prototype of Antichrist—one who comes in the name of Christ but actually opposes Christ—Maitreya steadfastly and defiantly declares that he is “the Christ.”4 One thing is for sure, whoever the prophesied Antichrist turns out to be, the true Jesus Christ warned that this false Christ would come in his own name—not in the name of Jesus Christ.

I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:43)

Thus, to separate the name and title of “the Christ” from the full name of Jesus Christ is an important spiritual ploy. It helps to prepare the way for an Antichrist who will come in his own name—not in the name of Jesus Christ. Wittingly, or unwittingly, this is exactly what William P. Young has done in The Shack. There is no Jesus Christ in The Shack. Just a “Jesus” who attempts to teach Shack readers the pantheistic, universalist false doctrine that God is “in” all things.

The Shack’s Christless Doctrine
According to William P. Young, The Shack was written to help his “mostly grown children” understand his theology—what he believes.5 He describes what he wrote for them in The Shack as “theology wrapped in story.”6 But what kind of “theology wrapped in story” never names the name of Jesus Christ? What kind of Jesus is he presenting to his kids and to his millions of readers? The answer is that he is presenting “another Jesus” who is a pantheistic, universal, Christless “Jesus.” While the apostle Peter was commended by the Lord Jesus Christ for recognizing and openly acknowledging Him as “the” Christ, William P. Young would not receive that same commendation. People may love The Shack, but The Shack’s “Jesus,” is not Jesus Christ.

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2 John 1:9-11)

Endnotes
1. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York: NY: Atria Books, An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2017), p. 118.
2. William P. Young, The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
3. Warren B. Smith, Be Still and Know That You Are Not God (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2015). Exhaustive booklet that explains and exposes the heretical teaching that God is in all things.
4. Warren B. Smith, False Christ Coming: Does Anybody Care? (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2011), Chapter 4; Warren B. Smith, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Church (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2004), Chapter 14.
5. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited (New York: NY: FaithWord, Hachette Book Group, 2012), p. ix. (from the Foreword written by Wm. Paul Young).
6. Ibid., p. xi.

Other Articles About The Shack by Warren B. Smith

http://www.warrenbsmith.com/theshack.htm

 

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”—Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens, p. 93

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Jan Johnson. . . . I was encouraged and redirected in so many ways. As a young woman trying to navigate the ins and outs of my relationship with the Lord, Ms. Jan spoke wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.—Priscilla Shirer (emphasis added; http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/wisbits; quoted in 2010 and still up on Shirer’s website)

Priscilla Shirer

This week, our office received a call from a woman who was concerned that her church is going to be doing a study using material by Priscilla Shirer. Our caller wanted to get some information she can show her pastor as to why her church should not be doing a Priscilla Shirer study. Because Priscilla Shirer is a contemplative proponent, we concur with our caller’s concerns. In John Lanagan’s booklet,  Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer,Lanagan shows how both Moore and Shirer have been advocates of contemplative spirituality for quite some time. In that booklet, and this is what we want to focus on in this article, Lanagan discusses a woman named Jan Johnson. Because Priscilla Shirer embraces and has gleaned spiritually from Johnson, we need to take a closer look at what Johnson believes.

We first heard about Jan Johnson in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing where Yungen explains:

Spiritual director Jan Johnson, in her book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, is a perfect example of an evangelical Christian who endorses and promotes this practice [contemplative prayer]. She leaves no doubt about what this type of prayer entails:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” [emphasis added]

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. [emphasis added] (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 82.)

When Johnson talks about stilling the mind in order to experience God’s presence and hear His voice, she is referring to something that is universal with mystics—putting the mind into a neutral, altered state where one is not aware of the distractions around him. This inner stillness can only be achieved through some type of meditative practice (see Johnson’s quote at top of this article), which in the case of “Christian” mystics is contemplative prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with contemplative jargon, the “cloud of unknowing” is taken from a small book of the same name, written by an anonymous monk several hundred years ago. The book is a primer on contemplative prayer and in it instructs:

Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . .  With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

This is describing a mantra-style practice, no different than that used in eastern meditation. It is interesting that Jan Johnson says the effect of this type of prayer is “unnerving.” Webster’s Dictionary defines unnerving as “inspiring fear.” This reminds us of another contemplative teacher, Richard Foster, who suggested that people pray prayers of protection before practicing contemplative prayer in order to avoid an evil encounter. But where in Scripture is prayer to God described as inspiring fear or something that needs prayers of protection first? Nowhere. That’s not how God’s Word defines prayer.

Jan Johnson

In Jan Johnson’s book, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness, Johnson shows her resonance with a number of contemplative figures with quotes by and references to them.  One particular name that jumps out is New Age sympathizer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Read a few quotes by Chardin and then ask yourself, why would a Christian author (Johnson) be drawn to someone with these views:

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheist aspect of Christianity.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56

Now I realize that, on the model of the incarnate God whom Christianity reveals to me, I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe. Thereby, too, my deepest ‘pantheist’ aspirations are satisfied.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 128.

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 95.

Johnson’s 2016 book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina leads readers in lectio divina meditations. Lectio Divina is used today as a gateway practice into contemplative mystical prayer. In her book, Johnson provides a section titled  “Relax and Refocus (silencio)”  which is instruction to readers on how to get rid of mental distractions when trying to practice lectio divina:

Each exercise begins with brief guidance to slow down, quiet your inner self and let go of distracting thoughts. . . . focusing on God. A way to interrupt this [mental] traffic is to focus on being present in the moment by breathing in and out deeply— even overbreathing. It also helps to relax our body parts one by one: bending the neck, letting the arms go limp, relaxing the legs and ankles. Loosen each part from the inside out. This doesn’t mean you’re setting aside your mind— you’re redirecting your mind away from the busyness that often consumes you. Being present in the moment prepares you to wait on the still, small voice of God. If you are distracted, you may want to try the palms up, palms down method. Rest your hands in your lap, placing your hands palms down as a symbol of turning over any concerns you have. If a nagging thought arises, turn your hands palms up as a “symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” [Foster] If you become distracted at any time during meditation, repeat the exercise. (Meeting God in Scripture, Kindle version, Kindle location 102)

To back up her teaching on practicing contemplative meditation and finding that inner stillness of the mind, Johnson turns to several contemplative teachers in Meeting God in Scripture. Sadly, God and Scripture are not the only things readers are going to meet when they read this book by Johnson. They will also meet Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and David Benner. Other books Johnson has written have the same caliber.  A few of those titles are:  Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, and Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Willard and Johnson). She has written several others books which carry the same message: you’ve got to have the inner mental silence to really know God (something Beth Moore has said too—in the Be Still DVD).

We could give several more examples of Johnson’s embracing contemplative spirituality. You won’t find much that she has written that doesn’t include this element. In one article on her website titled “What Is Solitude & Why Do I Need It? or . . . Turn Up the Quiet,” she quotes panentheist Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. Why does Jan Johnson keep referring to contemplative mystics in her writings? There can only be one answer to that question—because she resonates with them.

Conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this article, Priscilla Shirer “was encouraged and redirected in so many ways” when she met Jan Johnson. She added that Johnson “spoke wisdom into [Priscilla’s] life that was extremely pivotal in [her] life—personally and in ministry.” Shirer said these words in 2010 and has left them up on her website to this day. Obviously, she still feels this way about Johnson. In Shirer’s popular book 2006/2012 Discerning the Voice of God, she favorably quotes Jan Johnson twice from When the Soul Listens. Shirer also quotes contemplatives Joyce Huggett and Phil Yancey in Discerning the Voice of God. Shirer clearly has been influenced by Jan Johnson as she admits herself.

We’ll close with this: On Priscilla Shirer’s website, where she talks about meeting Jan Johnson, she also includes an article by Johnson who is quoting panentheist Catholic priest Richard Rohr (founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation) from his book Everything Belongs (meaning everything and everyone is part of God). Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the foreword to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he has an article titled “Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human—this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Lighthouse Trails has written numerous times about Rohr as he is aggressively pushing his panentheistic mystical spirituality into the evangelical church. If everything you have read in this article has not persuaded you to steer clear of Shirer’s studies, then this should do it, hands down. The fact that she keeps the post about Rohr on her website should alarm all Bible-believing Christians and illustrates the spiritual affinity Priscilla Shirer is drawn to.

Before your church does a Priscilla Shirer study, please keep in mind the things you have read in this article. Contemplative prayer has roots in panentheism  (God is in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God) as you can read in Ray Yungen’s article “The Final Outcome of Practicing Contemplative Prayer: Interspirituality.” Do you really want your church influenced in any way by a spirituality that is so against the Cross? Are we saying Priscilla Shirer is necessarily against the Cross? No, but for someone who wrote a book on how to discern the voice of God, she sure isn’t showing any discernment in the voices that she herself is listening to and being persuaded by.

“Shack” Author Paul Young States in Just-Released Book—Christ Is “In” Every Single Human Being

By Warren B. Smith

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, Having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

YOUNG PUBLICLY ENDORSES UNIVERSAL SALVATION
In his just-released book (March 7th), Lies We Believe About God, best-selling author Paul Young openly describes himself as a universalist. In chapter 13, Young would have us believe it is a “lie” to tell someone, “You need to get saved.”1 Young asks himself the rhetorical questions, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?”2 He answers, “That is exactly what I am saying!”3 Young then goes on to teach that “every single human being is in Christ” and that “Christ is in them.”4 With this unbiblical teaching, one recalls how Young put these same heretical words in the mouth of his “Jesus” character in The Shack. He wrote:

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.5

THE TRINITARIAN LIE
Young would have us believe his trinitarian lie that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inherently indwell everyone.6 This is exactly what the false “Christ” of the New Age teaches. In fact, it is the foundational teaching of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion that has progressively moved into the world and into the church.

NEW AGE IN THE CHURCH
As I pointed out in my booklet, The Shack and Its New Age Leaven,7 the teaching that God is “in” everyone is a heretical New Age teaching that has been increasingly popularized over the last thirty years by New Age authors and teachers and heavily promoted by people like Oprah Winfrey. Sadly, it is also found in the books and teachings of well-known church figures like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Eugene Peterson, Leonard Sweet, and Sarah Young.8 And in a November 1, 2016 Catholic News Service article titled, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” Pope Francis, in a Catholic Mass in Malmo, Sweden, proposed a new “beatitude”—”Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.”9

WHAT WILL THE CHURCH DO?
Paul Young wanted to have a conversation about the nature of God, and that conversation is now front and center before the church. Will pastors and leaders and day-to-day believers contend for the faith and fight the good fight, or will they let false teachers like Paul Young have their uncontested say and have their uncontested way?

Endnotes:
1. Chapter 13 title in Lies We Believe About God is “You need to get saved.”
2. William Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books; An imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017), p. 118.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 119.
5. William P. Young, The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
6. In C. Baxter Kruger’s book, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream, in the foreword, Shack author William Paul Young writes: I want to say, “Thank you, and please read The Shack Revisited.” He adds, “If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame The Shack, this book is for you. Baxter has taken on the incredible task of exploring the nature and character of the God who met me in my own shack” (p. ix). On page 49 of The Shack Revisited , Kruger writes: “For inside of us all, because of Jesus, is nothing short of the very trinitarian life of God.” C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream (New York, NY: FaithWords), p. 49.
7. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290.
8.  I have documented a short history of how this deceptive New Age teaching has entered the world and the church in my booklet Be Still and Know That You Are Not God. The booklet includes quotes by each of these figures. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17572.
9. Cathy Wooden, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” (Catholic News Service, November 1, 2016,).


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