Posts Tagged ‘universalism’
Trinity Broadcasting Network has seen fit to provide The Shack author William Paul Young with the world’s largest “Christian” stage—his very own television series on TBN. Young’s “Restoring the Shack” episodes are masterfully produced on location in beautiful Montana. His presentations are usually underscored and enhanced with soothing music that is clearly designed to evoke a strong emotional response and positive assent from viewers to whatever Young may be preaching or teaching.
In what could also be described as “The Shack Show,” Young brings his own weekly brand of Shack promotion, Shack theology, and Shack therapy to TBN viewers as he hopes to convert them from their own “Great Sadness” to his own “relational” take on what used to be biblical Christianity. The real sadness is that Young’s Shack theology and Shack therapy have more to do with his love for universalism and New Agey trinitarianism than it does with scriptural truth. Why New Agey? Because when Young teaches about “relationship” he is, by his own Shack definition, referring to the Trinity within—a God and Christ and Holy Spirit that are said to be “in” everyone and everything.1
Somewhat elusive about exposing his own personal universalism in the past, Young has recently made himself very clear on the matter. In his March 2017 book Lies We Believe About God, he asks two rhetorical questions of himself—”Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?” His immediate and almost defiant response in the book is—”That is exactly what I am saying!”2 Nevertheless, TBN has been only too pleased to not only promote his new book on every episode, but to simultaneously use it as a fundraiser for themselves at the same time. Obviously, with TBN becoming a showcase for Wm. Paul Young and his creative, relational, universalistic, New Agey take on the Trinity, TBN is giving new meaning to the “Trinity” in Trinity Broadcasting. And it looks like Wm. Paul Young and TBN are in for the weekly long haul as most Christian leaders look on with apparent indifference.
1. William P. Young, The Shack (Los Angeles: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
2. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), p. 118.
Letter to the Editor: I Warned My Pastor About “The Shack” . . . And He Listened! Now Warning His Church
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I just wanted to share with you how helpful this booklet on The Shack has been to me. Two weeks ago, just a few days after the releasing of The Shack movie, I met with the pastor of our church about my concerns about the movie/book. We had a good meeting which lasted about a half hour. I explained why I was coming to talk him about this movie as I had read info. on the heresies, etc., and promotion of Universalism, etc. He told me that he and his wife had just gone to see the movie. He said that he “really enjoyed it . . .” and “had a good feeling” leaving the theater. He said that the movie was well done and could see how popular it is/will be.
However, in the next sentence, he said, ” . . . but it’s NOT a biblical movie . . .” and went on to list the errors and false teaching(s.) He said “emotionally, it was manipulative”—another red flag.
It so happened that I had purchased one of your discernment packages sometime ago and came across The Shack booklet the day before I went in to see him. I took the booklet (as well as the one on Jesus Calling) and gave it to him. He asked me who Warren Smith was, and I told him about his past involvement in the New Age movement, etc. And, I told my pastor that I too had been involved in the New Age (Unity School of Christianity) 40+ years ago before the Lord took me out of that. And ever since that experience I have devoted much of my time and study in regard to discernment and trying to be a “good Berean” and test the spirits, etc. That was my primary concern and that this particular movie/book can easily lead new Christians, searching believers/unbelievers, along a path away from God and the Bible into a false “church.”
I got involved in Unity because they talked about Jesus, and they claimed to be Christian. They were very accepting and said you could “accept or reject” any teachings you want. There was no talk about sin and only “mistakes.” I fell for the lie and will never forget how I suffered for listening to the teachings of this “church.”
God has been faithful to me and saved me out of that cult. I have subscribed to Lighthouse Trails for many years and have purchased many of your books. I am forever grateful for your ministry and helps! In fact, my pastor came up to me yesterday at church and asked if I’d get him 10 more of the booklets on The Shack for him to share! He also spoke from the pulpit before he began his sermon about The Shack and warned the congregation of the heresies and teaching of Universalism, etc. He told us to make sure we test everything we see/hear against what the Bible teaches. I was thankful that he addressed this and even more that he wants to share your booklet with others!
Again, thank you for all you do to help keep the body of Christ informed and updated on what is affecting the church today and warning the sheep and shepherds.
A woman standing in line outside the theater to see The Shack movie was eager to talk with me about Paul Young’s best-selling book. She said she “loved” The Shack and couldn’t understand why it had so many critics on the Internet. She was especially perplexed by the number of “negative” comments made by pastors. Obviously confused by all the controversy, she suddenly exclaimed—”But The Shack is just a novel!”
What the woman and so many other Shack readers fail to take into account is that the book is much more than just a novel. It is a carefully crafted presentation of Paul Young’s alternative “Christian” universalist theology based on “real” conversations he claims to have had with God. In Young’s forward to The Shack Revisited, a book written by his friend C. Baxter Kruger, Young corrects any misunderstanding that The Shack is “just a novel.” He writes:
Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story.1
If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame The Shack, this book [Kruger’s] 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.2
According to Young, God came to him in the “Great Sadness” of his own “shack” and communicated directly with him. Much of The Shack’s theology is based on what Young learned in his conversations with God.
Young’s Conversations with God
A Christian news source recently reprinted excerpts from several posts Young made on his personal blog back in August 2007. In these excerpts, Young explained that The Shack is a story, but it is a story based on real conversations he was having with God, his friends, and his family. He writes:
Remember, I am thinking about writing this for my kids, so I am searching for a good vehicle to communicate through. I figure a good story would be great . . . but I didn’t have one. So I started with what I did have . . . conversations. So, off and on, for about three months I wrote down conversations; conversations that I was having with God mostly, but which often included friends or family.3 [emphasis added by W. Smith]
Is the story “real”? The story is fiction. I made it up. Now, having said that, I will add that the emotional pain with all its intensity and the process that tears into Mack’s heart and soul are very real. I have my “shack,” the place I had to go through to find healing. I have my Great Sadness . . . that is all real. And the conversations are very real and true. . . .
So is the story true? The pain, the loss, the grief, the process, the conversations, the questions, the anger, the longing, the secrets, the lies, the forgiveness . . . all real, all true.4 [emphasis added by W. Smith]
Young’s “Christian” Universalism
In a February 16, 2008 post on a blog called Christian Universalism: The Beautiful Heresy: The Shack, an avowed “friend” of Paul Young corroborates Young’s 2007 blog post about his conversations with God. The friend describes how the conversations Young’s main character Mack has with God in The Shack are “real conversations” that Paul Young actually had with God. She reveals how these conversations “revolutionized” Young, his family, and friends such as herself. She says that the “radically dangerous” teachings that Young put in his novel have become her new “systematic theology” and The Shack is her new “systematic theology handbook.” The following are her exact words and punctuation as they were originally posted on the “Christian Universalism” blog:
I know the author well—a personal friend. (Our whole house church devoured it last summer, and Paul came to our home to discuss it—WONDERFUL time!) The conversations that “Mack” has with God, are real conversations that Paul Young had with God . . . and they revolutionized him, his family, and friends (Paul had a very traumatic past, raised by missionary parents, who left him in the care of the stone-age Dani tribe, while they did “God’s work.” He was abused by them, in the process—and there were other tragedies in his life, later on. When he was a broken mess, God began to speak to him). He wrote the story (rather than a “sermon”) to give the real conversations context—and because Jesus also used simple stories to engage our hearts, even by-passing our objective brains, in order to have His message take root in our hearts, and grow. . . .
I had already come to believe all the “radically dangerous” teachings within this book—so it mostly confirmed what I already believed. But, it most definitely highlighted the reality that I don’t yet KNOW (KNOW!) how much God loves me. I want the relationship with God that I see in Paul Young’s life. . . .
This was the first book that I read straight through 4 times. First to absorb it. Secondly, to underline. Third to highlight. Fourth, to put “headers” on the top of each page, so that I could find certain passages again. It’s become my new “systematic theology” handbook!5 [emphasis added by W. Smith]
Thus, by his own account and that of his friend, Paul Young would be the first to deny that The Shack is “just a novel.”
Young the Universalist
Back to my conversation with the woman in front of the movie theater. When she said that The Shack was “just a novel,” I described how his novel was actually a fictional device used as a “vehicle” for presenting some of his own misguided theological teachings—teachings that had more in common with New Age teachings than biblical Christianity. When she acknowledged knowing about the New Age movement, I told her that some of The Shack’s teachings were actually New Age teachings. But before I could explain what those specific teachings were and how I had once been involved in the New Age myself, the theater doors opened, the line started moving, and our conversation was suddenly over. She seemed relieved as she turned toward the theater and away from me. Praying that she would come to understand that Paul Young has more in common with New Age universalism than biblical Christianity. I had no idea at the time that Young was about to publicly declare in a new book what so many of us already knew. In Lies We Believe About God, which was released on March 7th, Young states that he believes in “universal salvation”6 and that “every single human being is in Christ” and “Christ is in them.”7 Thus, Young himself makes it very clear in his own words that The Shack is not “just a novel” but rather a “cunningly devised fable” (2 Peter 1:16) for presenting some of his own heretical universalistic New Age views.
Who is Paul Young Really Listening To and Conversing With?
Paul Young would have us believe that he has been having “real” conversations with God and that he was inspired by God to write The Shack. Yet he is now declaring himself to be a universalist who believes in the false New Age trinitarian doctrine that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are already “in” everyone. In other words, Young, as a professing universalist, would have us believe that all of humanity is already saved (universal salvation). The question that naturally arises and that is now before the church is—just who is Paul Young actually listening to and conversing with? The God of the Bible or the false “God” of the New Age?
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)
1. C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going on Here than You Ever Dared to Dream ( New York, NY: FaithWorks, Hatchette Book Group, 2012), p. xi.
2. Ibid., p. viiii.
3. Sunny Shell, “The Shack, a Biblical and Interactive Review” (http://blogs.christianpost.com/abandoned-to-christ/the-shack-a-biblical-and-interactive-review-28674/, posted 2/16/17, quoting Paul Young from his August 15, 2007 blog titled “The Shack – update – Background #2″ (http://web.archive.org/web/20070911092057/http://www.windrumors.com/29/the-shack-update-background-2/).
4. Sunny Shell, “The Shack, a Biblical and Interactive Review” (http://blogs.christianpost.com/abandoned-to-christ/the-shack-a-biblical-and-interactive-review-28674/, posted 2/16/17, quoting Paul Young from his August 15, 2007 blog titled “Is the story of THE SHACK true . . . is Mack a “real” person? (http://web.archive.org/web/20070911092319/http://www.windrumors.com/30/is-the-story-of-the-shack-trueis-mack-a-real-person/).
5. Christian Universalism-The Beautiful Heresy: The Shack (http://web.archive.org/web/20080307051159/http://christian-universalism.blogs.com/thebeautifulheresy/2008/02/the-shack.html, posted February 16, 2008 by Dena Brehm. (Thanks to Kent McElroy for bringing this blog to my attention).
6. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017), p. 118.
7. Ibid., p. 119.
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?
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.
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,).
The best-selling book, The Shack, by William Paul Young, is coming out as a full production movie in March of 2017. After viewing the trailer, we believe this movie is going to have a very big impact on many people’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a harmful impact. Lighthouse Trails has published several articles and one booklet by Warren B. Smith on The Shack book, and if you have any doubts about the dangers of The Shack, we hope you will read some of this material. Our coverage includes several aspects of the book including the author’s universalistic beliefs, his rejection of substitutionary atonement, the New Age implications woven throughout the book, the black Madonna/Father-goddess theme included in the story, and much more.
Below are links to some of our coverage. Below the links is the trailer to the film. Please warn your family members, friends, and church members about this upcoming movie. The movie will pull at the heart strings of people’s emotions, but it will be pulling them in the wrong direction – away from the Cross and toward a universalistic, panentheistic false “Christ.”
BOOKLET – The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Warren B. Smith
Quantum Physics, The Shack, and the New Spirituality by Larry DeBruyn
The twisted “truths” of The Shack & A Course in Miracles by Berit Kjos
The Shack Author Rejects Biblical Substitutionary Atonement by John Lanagan
The Shack: Father-goddess Rising by John Lanagan
By Bob DeWaay
Imagine a world where the polarity of time is reversed so that history moves backward toward Paradise rather than forward toward judgment. Consider a world in which God is so immanently involved in the creation that He is undoing entropy1 and recreating the world now through processes already at work. Think of a world where the future is leading to God Himself in a saving way for all people and all of creation. This imaginary world is our world viewed through the lens of Emergent eschatology.
Several acts of God’s providence brought me to know the nature of Emergent theology and its unique eschatology. The first happened in 1999 during my final year in seminary when the seminary hired a new professor, LeRon Shults. Shults, a theological disciple of the German Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, became my professor for a logic class. Shults often described his beliefs with this simple statement: “God is the future drawing everything into Himself.”
Some years later, several people suggested that I consider writing an article examining a new movement called “The Emerging Church.” For my study I carefully read Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy.2 What baffled me about his theology was that his views were nearly identical to those refuted 40 years earlier by Francis Schaeffer, who had called it “the new theology.” But as Schaeffer so clearly showed, the result of this theology is despair because under it there is no hope of knowing the truth. But the Emerging writers describe their theology as one of hope. If there is no hope of knowing the truth about God, man, and the universe we live in (as they claim), then how is hope the result? It turns out that a theology from the 1960s, first articulated in Germany when Schaeffer was writing his books, is the answer.
That leads to a second providential event. A woman in our church handed me a book that she thought might be of interest in my research: A is for Abductive – The Language of the Emerging Church.3 Under the entry “Eschaton,” the heading “The end of entropy”4 appears. It then says, “In the postmodern matrix there is a good chance that the world will reverse its chronological polarity for us. Instead of being bound to the past by chains of cause and effect, we will feel ourselves being pulled into the future by the magnet of God’s will, God’s dream, God’s desire.”5 Reading this brought my mind back to 1999 and Shults’ interpretation of Pannenberg: “God is the future drawing everything into Himself.” Could this be the ground of Emergent “hope”?
The third providential event was the debate with Doug Pagitt, the 2006 event on the topic of The Emergent Church and Postmodern Spirituality. That event gave me the opportunity to ask Pagitt, a nationally recognized leader in the Emergent movement, whether or not he believed in a literal future judgment. He would not answer either way but did state that judgment happens now through consequences in history. His refusal to answer that question convinced me that the Pannenberg/Shults eschatology was behind the movement!
The fourth providential event was a meeting with Tony Jones with the goal of setting up another debate. It turned out that they did not want another debate, but Jones offered to answer any of my questions about Emergent. I responded by e-mail asking about Stanley Grenz, Wolfhart Pannenberg, LeRon Shults, and Jürgen Moltmann and their influence on Emergent theology. Jones replied that Grenz (who, as I will later show, praises the theologies of both Pannenberg and Moltmann) was influential and that Jones himself was studying under a professor named Miroslav Volf who had studied under Moltmann. Also, he helped me with his comment that their hope-filled belief generally leads them to reject eschatologies that “preach a disastrous end to the cosmos.”
The fifth providential event was when I fell and fractured my ankle while trimming trees. The broken ankle required that I sit with my leg elevated for a full week in order to get the swelling down. I had found a copy of Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope that I knew I had to read to prove my thesis. Reading Moltmann was so laborious that finishing the book was not likely to be completed quickly. But because of my immobility I finished Moltmann, taking notes on the contents of every page. The same week I read Moltmann, I obtained the just-published An Emergent Manifesto of Hope with Pagitt and Jones as the editors. I read that as well and found Moltmann cited favorably by two emergent writers.6 In that same book, Jones describes why this theology is so hopeful for them: “God’s promised future is good, and it awaits us, beckoning us forward. We’re caught in the tractor beam of redemption and re-creation, and there’s no sense fighting it, so we might as well cooperate.”7 Or as professor Shults always said, “God is the future drawing everything into Himself.”
All of this leads me to my thesis: That the worldview represented by the theology of Grenz, Pannenberg, Moltmann, and Shults is the bedrock foundation of the Emergent Church movement. Their language and ideas present themselves on the pages of many Emergent books. For example, McLaren writes, “In this way of seeing, God stands ahead of us in time, at the end of the journey, sending to us in waves, as it were, the gift of the present, an inrush of the future that pushes the past behind us and washes over us with a ceaseless flow of new possibilities, new options, new chances to rethink and receive new direction, new empowerment.”8 Here is Pagitt’s version of it:
God is constantly creating anew. And God also, invites us to be re-created and join the work of God as co-(re)creators. . . . Imagine the Kingdom of God as the creative process of God reengaging in all that we know and experience. . . . When we employ creativity to make this world better, we participate with God in the recreation of the world.9
These writers often refer to “God’s dream.” Apparently they mean that God imagines an ideal future for the world that we can join and help actualize. When this dream becomes reality in the future, it will be the Kingdom of God.
This series of providential events in my life worked together to help me accurately understand a movement that works very hard to stay undefined. Definitions draw boundaries. Definitions are static. But definitions are necessary in order for us to understand anything. With no defined categories we would be hopeless human beings because, for example, we need our rational minds and valid categories to distinguish between food and poison. Definitions are valid, and no amount of philosophical legerdemain can change that reality. Definitions, to their way of thinking, impede the process of the “tractor beam” of redemption they are experiencing. They consider definitions too “foundationalist,” as we will discuss in a later chapter. I believe that I can now define the Emergent Church movement more accurately because I understand what they believe.
The Emergent Church movement is an association of individuals linked by one very important, key idea: that God is bringing history toward a glorious kingdom of God on earth without future judgment. They loathe dispensationalism more than any other theology because it claims just the opposite: that the world is getting ever more sinful and is sliding toward cataclysmic judgment.10 Both of these ideas cannot be true. Either there is a literal future judgment, or there is not. This is not a matter left to one’s own preference.
(Used with permission.)
Note: In September 2009, Bob DeWaay attended the “2009 Emergent Theological Conversation” (http://www.jopaproductions.com/moltmann-conversation-0) where Jurgen Moltmann was a guest speaker. This substantiated DeWaay’s findings regarding Moltmann’s significant influence in the emerging church.
1. Entropy is the principle by which physicists describe heat loss in a closed system. The existence of entropy is a proof that the universe is not eternal because if it were infinitely old it would have already died of heat death.
2. CIC Issue 87, March/April 2005. http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue87.htm
3. Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, and Jerry Haselmayer, A is for Abductive – The Language of the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003).
4. Ibid. 113.
6. In An Emergent Manifesto of Hope,Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones editors (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007); Moltmann is cited favorably by Dwight Friesen on page 203 and Troy Bronsink page 73 n. 24.
7. Ibid. Tony Jones, 130.
8. Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy; (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004) 283.
9. Doug Pagitt, Church Re-imagined(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003/2005) 185.
10. Please note that classical amillennialism also believes that the world is facing future judgment. Emergent is not merely opposed to dispensationalism, but any version of eschatology that asserts that God will bring cataclysmic judgment at the end of the age.
By Ray Yungen
The final outcome of contemplative prayer is interspirituality. If you have truly grasped the portrait I have tried to paint in my book and articles, you have begun to see what this term signifies. The focus of my criticism of mystical prayer must be understood in the light of interspirituality.
Just what exactly is interspirituality? The premise behind interspirituality is that divinity (God) is in all things, and the presence of God is in all religions; there is a connecting together of all things, and through mysticism (i.e., meditation) this state of divinity can be recognized. Consequently, this is a premise that is based on and upheld by an experience that occurs during a self-hypnotic trance linking one to an unseen world rather than to the sound doctrine of the Bible.
It is important to understand that interspirituality is a uniting of the world’s religions through the common thread of mysticism. Wayne Teasdale, a lay monk who coined the term interspirituality, says that interspirituality is “the spiritual common ground which exists among the world’s religions.”1 Teasdale, in talking about this universal church also states:
She [the church] also has a responsibility in our age to be a bridge for reconciling the human family . . . the Spirit is inspiring her through the signs of the times to open to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Taoists, Confucians, and indigenous peoples. As matrix [a binding substance], the Church would no longer see members of other traditions as outside her life. She would promote the study of these traditions, seek common ground and parallel insights.2 (emphasis mine)
An article in my local newspaper revealed just how well received interspirituality has become in certain circles. One Presbyterian elder who was described as a “Spiritual Director” made it clear when she said:
I also have a strong interest in Buddhism and do a sitting meditation in Portland [Oregon] as often as I can. I considered myself ecumenical not only in the Christian tradition, but with all religions.3 (emphasis mine)
There is a profound and imminent danger taking place within the walls of Christianity. Doctrine has become less important than feeling, and this has led to a mystical paradigm shift. Sound doctrine must be central to this debate because New Ageism has a very idealistic side to it, offering a mystical approach to solve human problems. Everyone would like to have his or her problems solved. Right? That is the practical aspect I wrote about in the last chapter—a seemingly direct route to a happy and fulfilled life. However, one can promote the attributes of God without actually having God.
People who promote a presumably godly form of spirituality can indeed come against the truth of Christ. Then how can you be assured what you believe and practice is of God?
The Christian message has been clear from the beginning—God has sent a Savior. If man only had to practice some kind of mystical prayer to gain access to God then the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fruitless, hollow endeavor.
Sound Christian doctrine comes from the understanding that mankind is sinful, fallen, and separated from God. Man needs a saving work by God! A teaching like panentheism (God is in everybody) cannot be reconciled to the finished work of Christ. How could Jesus be our Savior then? New Age constituents will say He is a model for Christ consciousness, but the Bible teaches He is the Savior of mankind. Therefore, panentheism cannot be a true doctrine.
The problem is that many well-intentioned people embrace the teachings of panentheism because it sounds so good. It appears less bigoted on God’s part. No one is left out—all are connected to God. There is a great appeal in this message. Nevertheless, the Bible does not teach a universal salvation for man. In contrast, Jesus said:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Christ’s message is the polar opposite of these universalist teachings. Many people (even Christians) today think only a few really bad people will be sent to hell. But in Matthew, the words of Jesus make it clear that this just is not so.
While God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world, He did not say all would be saved. His words are clear that many would reject the salvation He provided. But those who are saved have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) making an appeal to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3). The Christian message is not samadhi, Zen, kundalini, or the contemplative silence. It is the power of the Cross!
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Yes, perishing, and not just unaware of their true self.
In an opinion poll, the startling results describe how Americans actually view God. Spirituality and Health magazine hired a reputable pollster organization to gauge the spiritual beliefs of the American public. This national poll revealed that 84 percent of those questioned believed God to be “everywhere and in everything” rather than “someone somewhere.”4 This means panentheism is now the more popular view of God. If true, then a high percentage of evangelical Christians in America already lean towards a panentheistic view of God. Perhaps many of these Christians are fuzzy about the true nature of God.
How could this mystical revolution have come about? How could this perspective have become so widespread? The answer is that over the last thirty or forty years a number of authors have struck a deep chord with millions of readers and seekers within Christendom. These writers have presented and promoted the contemplative view to the extent that many now see it as the only way to “go deeper” in the Christian life. They are the ones who prompt men and women to plunge into contemplative practice. It is their message that leads people to experience the “lights” and the “inner adviser!”
1. Wayne Teasdale, “Mysticism as the Crossing of Ultimate Boundaries: A Theological Reflection” (The Golden String newsletter, http://clarusbooks.com/Teasdale.html, accessed 10/2009).
2. Wayne Teasdale, A Monk in the World (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2002), p. 64.
3. Jan Alsever quoted in Statesman Journal, January 27th, 1996, Religion Section.
4. Katherine Kurs, “Are You Religious or Are You Spiritual?” (Spirituality & Health Magazine, Spring 2001), p. 28.