Coming From the Lighthouse

Newsletter

July 23, 2007

In This Issue -

Warning: Popular Book in Christian Circles...Soul Feast

Contextual Theology - Falling From Truth Through the Emerging Church

Global Peace and Harmony - An Apostasy of "Light"...

Use Harry Potter to Spread Christian Message?...

America's 50 Most Influential Churches - Many Pro Contemplative/Emergent

Christian Bookstores Face Crisis of Faith

The Deadly Magic of Potter Movies

Awana Embraces Contemplative Spirituality

Hindu Prayer in Senate Draws Religious Protesters

 

 

 

 

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Book Alert: Popular Contemplative Book in Christian Circles

Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson is a book that promotes mantra meditation and New Age mystics. It stands among many other contemplative prayer books that do the same. But what is so alarming is that it also stands within the ranks of many Christian ministries, organizations, churches, and colleges. And even though  Thompson does not hide her mystical affinities, many in Christian circles see her as a trustworthy source for spiritual nourishment.

The book was first released in 1995. Henri Nouwen was still alive, and he wrote the foreword, saying that Soul Feast is "the fruit of Marjorie's personal practice, her solid studies, and long experience in spiritual formation. It brings together in a clear, concise way the essence of her ministry." Nouwen would agree that if someone wanted to know what Thompson really believed, this book would provide the "essence" of those beliefs.

In the book, Thompson gets right to the point of the book when she makes the following statements in the prologue:

Some Christians find that 'mindfulness meditation," a traditional Buddhist practice, helps them live their Christian discipleship more faithfully.

The practice of contemplative prayer might give a Christian ground for constructive dialogue with a meditating Buddhist.

Spiritual practice is the heart of this book.

Thompson, an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA, 1 is a director for The Pathways Center (part of the Upper Room Ministries).2 Upper Room is an organization that promotes mantra based meditation and is the creator of the popular, meditation tool Walk to Emmaus.

In Soul Feast, Thompson's "Annotated Bibliography" (of books she favors) is a who's who of pantheistic contemplatives including: Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Anthony de Mello, Richard Foster, Tilden Edwards, Edward Hays, Morton Kelsey, and Parker Palmer. Jesuit priest De Mello, author of Sadhana: A Way To God, says this of meditation:

A Jesuit friend once told me that he approached a Hindu guru for initiation in the art of prayer. The guru said to him, "Concentrate on your breathing." My friend proceeded to do just that for about five
minutes. Then the guru said, "The air you breathe is God. You are breathing God in and out. Become aware of that, and stay with that awareness." (FMSCN, p. 119)

Soul Feast is peppered with quotes by and references to staunch New Age mystics like Matthew Fox, Gerald May, and M. Scott Peck. Others in the book are Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Brother Lawrence (see our research site for detailed information on these teachers). All of these named have one thing in common - they believe in the silent altered state that is induced through contemplative prayer.

One of the mystics Thompson refers to is Thomas Keating, the father of the modern day centering prayer movement. In referring to Keating's philosophy, Thompson states:

A way of prayer closely related to this ancient form [the Jesus prayer] is now enjoying a revival among Christians of several traditions. It is called "centering prayer," and is a good way to introduce the person in the pew to contemplation. Centering prayer is based on a fourteenth-century treatise titled The Cloud of Unknowing. In this way of prayer, you select a single word that sums up for you the nature and being of God. Single-minded focus on this prayer word in silent concentration becomes a vehicle into the mystery of divine presence and grace. The method bears a striking resemblance to Eastern meditation with mantras but has developed independently out of the mystical strands of Western Christianity.

Most likely Thompson read Keating's statement in a book he wrote the foreword to (Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality) where he said that Kundalini (a product of occultic meditation) and Christian contemplative prayer were one in the same.

 

Encouraging the practice of lectio divina and breath prayers, Thompson tells readers to find their own prayer words, then "repeat the phrase gently in your mind for several minutes" (p. 52). She adds: "Over time, the repetition creates a space in which words fall away and we become more aware of the Presence they point to." Brother Lawrence recognized this presence. In his book The Practice of the Presence of God it says he "danced violently like a mad man" when he practiced going into the presence (see ATOD, p. 147).

While anyone who has researched the contemplative prayer/spiritual formation movement would expect to find names like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard connected with this book (because of their similar spiritual proclivities to Thompson), it is disquieting to learn just how many Christian ministries are resonating with Thompson. For instance, in the recent Harvest House release Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, author Mary E. DeMuth favorably references Thompson in three different chapters. James Emery White (Rick Warren's pro-Harry Potter, pro-contemplative colleague)3, makes favorable reference to Thompson twice in his book, Serious Times. He says: "The spiritual life is 'the increasing vitality and sway of God's spirit in us,' writes Marjorie Thompson" (p. 75). White likens this "spiritual life" to Thomas Merton's view.

 

Willow Creek did a women's study of Soul Feast 4, and Abilene Christian University used the book as a textbook in their Spiritual Formation course5. Bethel University also used the book as a textbook in their Spring 2007 course, DYNAMICS OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY as did Wheaton College in a similar course.6 Mark Yaconelli of Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project also recommends the book (7), and so do many other Christian leaders and groups. The book is recommended by a professor at the Canadian Mennonite University (8), and by leaders in a number of other denominations: Nazarene, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Church of God, and Southern Baptist. In fact, LifeWay Stores (Southern Baptist) offers the book to patrons in their Christian Living section.9 Unfortunately, if Thompson's spirituality becomes indicative of "Christian living," the words of mystic Karl Rahner will ring true when he said the Christian of the future will be a mystic on not a Christian at all.

It is clear that Thompson shares a spiritual kinship with New Age mystics. That is why she references people like Matthew Fox.

 

Chances are your church is carrying a copy of Soul Feast in their bookstore or on their library bookshelves. If so, your friends, loved ones, and family members have been put in harm's way. We hope you will warn them.

 

Some may feel we are being too indicting of Marjorie Thompson's book and her spirituality, but something she says in the back of her book should dispel any doubts. Thompson lists a book titled An Invitation to the Spiritual Journey by John P. Gorsuch. Of the book, Thompson says, "A graceful, inviting book on spiritual growth and the practices that lead us toward God" (p. 175). In Gorsuch's book, he references favorably Paramhansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi) and called the yogi a saint who leads people back to God. Thompson must have read this in Gorsuch's book. For her to call Gorsuch's book "graceful, inviting" and say it leads us "toward God," can bring us to only one conclusion - Marjorie Thompson believes eastern style meditation is a valid message for Christians.

 

Contextual Theology - Falling From Truth Through the Emerging Church

by Roger Oakland

In order for the emerging church to succeed, the Bible has to be looked at through entirely different glasses, and Christianity needs to be open to a new type of faith. Brian McLaren calls this new faith a "generous orthodoxy."1 While such an orthodoxy allows a smorgasbord of ideas to be proclaimed in the name of Christ, many of these ideas are actually forbidden and rejected by Scripture.

Pagitt believes that he is part of a cutting-edge response to the new postmodern world. It's a response he and others see as completely unique, never having been tried before in the history of man. Pagitt states:

It seems to me that our post-industrial times require us to ask new questions-questions that people 100 years ago would have never thought of asking. Could it be that our answers will move us to re-imagine the way of Christianity in our world? Perhaps we as Christians today are not only to consider what it means to be a 21st century church, but also and perhaps more importantly-what it means to have a 21st century faith.2

Many people I meet at conferences who come from a wide variety of church backgrounds tell me the church they have been attending for years has radically changed. Their pastor no longer teaches the Bible. Instead, the Sunday morning service is a skit or a series of stories. The Bible seems to have become the forbidden book. While there are pastors who do still teach the Bible, they are becoming the exception rather than the rule.

Emergent leaders often say the message remains the same, but our methods must change if we are going to be relevant to our generation. The measure of success for many pastors today is how many are coming, rather than how many are listening and obeying what God has said in His Word. Let's consider how Doug Pagitt uses the Bible in his own church. He states:

At Solomon's Porch, sermons are not primarily about my extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people's lives. In many ways the sermon is less a lecture or motivational speech than it is an act of poetry-of putting words around people's experiences to allow them to find deeper connection in their lives... So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation.3


What Pagitt is describing is a contextual theology; that is, don't use the Bible as a means of theology or measuring rod of truth and standards by which to live; and rather than have the Bible mold the Christian's life, let the Christian's life mold the Bible. That's what Pagitt calls "putting words around people's experiences." As this idea is developed, emerging proponents have to move away from Bible teachings and draw into a dialectic approach. That way, instead of just one person preaching truth or teaching biblical doctrine, everyone can have a say and thus come to a consensus of what the Bible might be saying. Pagitt explains:

To move beyond this passive approach to faith, we've tried to create a community that's more like a potluck: people eat and they also bring something for others. Our belief is built when all of us engage our hopes, dreams, ideas and understandings with the story of God as it unfolds through history and through us.4

You may not have heard the term before, but contextual theology is a prominent message from the emerging church. In his book, Models of Contextual Theology (1992), Stephen B. Bevans defines contextual theology as:

... a way of doing theology in which one takes into account: the spirit and message of the gospel; the tradition of the Christian people; the culture in which one is theologizing; and social change in that culture, whether brought about by western technological process or the grass-roots struggle for equality, justice and liberation.5

In other words, the Bible in, and of itself, is not free-standing-other factors (culture, ethnicity, history) must be taken into consideration, and with those factors, the message of the Bible must be adjusted to fit. As one writer puts it, "Contextual theology aims at the humanization of theology."6 But two questions need to be asked. First, will the contextualizing of Scripture cause such a twisting of its truth that it no longer is the Word of God, and secondly, is Scripture ineffective without this contextualization? To the first, I give a resounding yes! And to the second, an absolute no. The Word of God, which is an inspired work of the living Creator, is far more than any human-inspired book and has been written in such a way that every human being, rich or poor, man or woman, intelligent or challenged will understand the meaning of the Gospel message if it is presented in their native language; and thanks to the tireless work of missionaries for centuries, the Gospel in native languages is becoming a reality in most cultures today.

Dean Flemming is a New Testament teacher at European Nazarene College in Germany and the author of Contextualization in the New Testament. In his book, he defends contextual theology:

Every church in every particular place and time must learn to do theology in a way that makes sense to its audience while challenging it at the deepest level. In fact, some of the most promising conversations about contextualization today (whether they are recognized as such or not) are coming from churches in the West that are discovering new ways of embodying the gospel for an emerging postmodern culture.7

These "churches in the West" Flemming considers "most promising" are the emerging churches. He would agree with Bevans' model of theology, but he has an answer to the emerging church's dilemma. He states:

Many sincere Christians are still suspicious that attempts to contextualize theology and Christian behavior will lead to the compromising of biblical truth ... we must look to the New Testament for mentoring in the task of doing theology in our various settings.8

There's good reason some Christians are suspicious. But it can seem harmless at first because Flemming suggests the answer is in the New Testament, which he believes should be used as a prototype or pattern rather than something for doctrine or theology. New Testament theology is always open for change, he says, but we can learn how to develop this change by studying New Testament stories and characters. The premise Flemming presents of contextualizing Scripture is that since cultures and societies are always changing, the Word must change with it and be conformed to these changes. But I would challenge this. The Bible says the Word is living, active, and powerful:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

And if the Word is this powerful, then it is stable and eternal as well. God, in His magnificence, is the Author of Scripture, and He surpasses time, culture, and societies. Contextualizing says people and cultures change, and therefore God's Word must change. But, on the contrary, it's people who need to change to conform to Scripture. If we really believe that the Bible is God's Word, this would be clear to see; but if we think to ourselves that the Word is not infallible, not inspired, then contextualization would be the obvious expectation.

While certain parts of the Bible may be read as poetry (as Pagitt suggests), for indeed the Bible is a beautifully written masterpiece, it is also a living mechanism that is not to be altered-rather it alters the reader's heart and life. It is much more than putting words around people's experiences as emergents suggest.

The Bible tells us God is always right; it is man who is so often wrong. When we rely upon human consensus, we will end up with man's perspective and not God's revelation. This is a dangerous way to develop one's spiritual life-the results can lead to terrible deception.

Brian McLaren put it well when he admitted it isn't just the way the message is presented that emerging church proponents want to change ... it's the message itself they are changing:

It has been fashionable among the innovative [emerging] pastors I know to say, "We're not changing the message; we're only changing the medium." This claim is probably less than honest ... in the new church we must realize how medium and message are intertwined. When we change the medium, the message that's received is changed, however subtly, as well. We might as well get beyond our naivete or denial about this....9

While reaching today's generation for the cause of Christ is something we as Christians should all desire, we must remember Jesus Christ challenged us to follow Him and be obedient to His Word. Scripture commands us to "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). But the emergents are leading followers in the opposite direction, teaching that the Word of God needs to be conformed to people and cultures instead of allowing it to conform lives through Jesus Christ.... reimagining Christianity allows a dangerous kind of freedom; like cutting the suspension ropes on a hot air balloon, the free fall may be exhilarating but the results catastrophic.(From Faith Undone, pp. 42-45.) Click here for endnote references.

Global Peace and Harmony - An Apostasy of "Light"

by Ray Yungen

 

I do not agree with the view that the New Age is the path to the Golden Age of global peace and harmony. But after 22 years of research, I fully understand why so many people have embraced metaphysics [mysticism] and why they seek transformation for humanity as a whole. By and large, they have rejected orthodox (old paradigm) Christianity as being unacceptable, but still want to retain spiritual meaning and a utopian vision in their lives. In addition, they see metaphysics as helpful towards improving the quality of their daily lives, whether it be better health, more loving relationships, inner peace, or guidance for success and prosperity. They would think it the height of ignorance and folly to condemn such seemingly wonderful ways to better the human condition.

Many would reject a challenge of New Age consciousness from a Christian viewpoint as being the result of misinformation. It is widely believed in New Age circles that Jesus Christ was Himself a metaphysician of great stature. They quote verses where Jesus proclaims: "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21)--meaning a reference to the higher self, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)--a reference, they say, to meditation, and "Greater works than these shall he do" (John 14:12)--meaning New Agers can have His powers. As far out as this may sound to many Christian readers, New Age adherents are quite sincere in this belief. They firmly argue that reincarnation was originally in the Bible but was taken out at the Council of Nicea so that church and state could better control the common people by fear. Although there are still plenty of skeptics and critics, these beliefs are becoming less offensive and more acceptable all the time.

One of the most common New Age attitudes is that there are many paths to God and that it is wrong to judge or condemn another person's path because not all people are suited for the same one. New Agers teach that each person should find the path best suited for himself.

There are two questions to be answered here: Is it right to judge? And do all paths lead to God? Jesus Christ foretold in Matthew 7:22-23:

Many will say to me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" And then will I profess unto them, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

I find it most interesting that people who were doing "many wonderful works" or miraculous works in His name were, in reality, working "iniquity" or evil. This leads me to believe that a great deception is occurring.

These verses also tell me that all paths do not lead to God and, because they do not, one had better judge which path is correct. Many people, of course, counter with, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." However, taken in context, this verse (Matthew 7:1), is talking about hypocrisy in human behavior and not about withholding critical examination of spiritual teachings. Galatians 1:8 bears out the necessity to evaluate spiritual teaching with proper discernment. Paul warns:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

And II John 1:9-11 says:

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.

And again in Ephesians 5:11, "...have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."

How may we reprove something if we don't determine whether or not it fits the bill of "unfruitful works?" In II Timothy 3:16-17, we read:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect [complete], thoroughly furnished [fully equipped] unto all good works.

Noticing the New Age propensity for also quoting Bible verses to support the claims of metaphysics, I have focused on the obvious conflict between the Ancient Wisdom and the God of the Bible that runs from Genesis through Revelation. The continuity of this apparent contrast is undeniable to the point that any New Ager would have to acknowledge that it exists. This contrast and objection is the foundation for any logical Christian opposition to metaphysics. Notice the list of metaphysical arts in Deuteronomy 18:9-12:

When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination [a psychic, or an observer of times, meaning festivals connected to nature worship], or an enchanter [one who manipulates people by occult power], or a witch [one who uses occult power]. Or a charmer [hypnotist], or a consulter with familiar spirits [one who receives advice or knowledge from a spirit], or a wizard [one who uses a spirit to do his will], or a necromancer [one who believes he is contacting the dead]. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

The word abomination in verse 12 means "abhorrent" or "disgusting." Please note the reference to familiar spirits in the following verses from Leviticus. This term is found throughout the Old Testament and has a negative connotation:

And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6)

An example of this is a book called Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain, which could be called one of the bibles of the New Age movement (over three million copies have been sold in the US and translated into 25 languages). Gawain explains the basic process of visualization. First comes "relaxing into a deep, quiet meditative state of mind,"1 which is to be done every morning and afternoon. This opens the "channel" for "higher wisdom and guidance to come to you."2 Gawain then describes the nature of this guidance:

The inner guide is known by many different names, such as your counselor, spirit guide, imaginary friend, or master. It is a higher part of yourself, which can come to you in many different forms, but usually comes in the form of a person or being whom you can talk to and relate to as a wise and loving friend.3

Your guide is there for you to call on anytime you need or want extra guidance, wisdom, knowledge, support, creative inspiration, love or companionship. Many people who have established a relationship with their guide meet them every day in their meditation.4

What Shakti Gawain is talking about is the same thing spoken of in Deuteronomy 18--familiar spirits. The so-called higher self is nothing more than a familiar spirit out to manipulate those people who open themselves to it. It has been common in Christian circles to speak of them as demons. The word demon comes from the Greek term deamonion, which literally means spirit guide. Familiar spirits make contact while the person's mind is in neutral and try to establish a strong connection; the result is control of the person by the spirit. The core of New Age spirituality is that the higher self (i.e., familiar spirit) is supposed to be the guiding principle in every area of one's life - period! That is why in Ephesians 6:12, the apostle Paul warns us:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

He is saying that there are non-human powers (forces) that are in opposition to God. The nature of this is apparent to anyone who takes a close look at metaphysics with this verse in mind. After a certain point, influence and guidance from the familiar spirit progresses to outright possession. This, I believe, is the kundalini effect. One New Age proponent explains it the following way:

Before, kundalini had seemed like a fable to me, fascinating and appealing, but as improbable in its way as God talking to Moses through a burning bush or Jesus raising the dead. But now I was sometimes aware, toward the end of the third stage of Dynamic Meditation, of something moving as elusively as neon up my spine, flashing like lightning in my limbs.... When, in the fifth and final stage, I danced, I now sensed myself moved by a force more powerful, more inventive, than any I could consciously summon.5

I believe that Raphael and Alice Bailey's "Tibetan" are familiar spirits. I also believe they are revealing their plan of operation in their writings. The intent of these beings can be seen by what the following metaphysical practitioners convey:

It is all there-just look for it. Seek the immortal, eternal Spirit that dwells within you - the "I am presence," containing all that was, is, or ever shall be....6

The whole of life will become more meaningful as you live from the center within. Remember that you are Gods in the Making.7

It is not necessary to "have faith" in any power outside of yourself.

Who do you think would want you to believe something like that? Who would want you to believe that God does not exist outside of yourself - that you don't need to have faith in anything external. New Age writer/philosopher David Spangler reveals who in his book Reflections on the Christ when he writes:

Some being has to take these energies into his consciousness and substance and channel them as it were to those other beings who must receive them, in this case humanity. The being who chose to embody these energies and to be in essence the angel of man's inner evolution is the being we know as Lucifer.8

He lays out the entire program behind the New Age movement in the following explanation:

He [Lucifer] comes to make us aware of our power within, to draw to ourselves experience. He comes to make us aware of the power of creative manifestation which we wield.

When you are working with the laws of manifestation you are in essence manifesting a Luciferic principle.9

Even if Spangler had not written these words, the link between Lucifer and the New Age movement would still be evident to Christians from reading II Corinthians 11:13-15:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

For this deception to be effective, he would have to come as an "angel of light." To judge a belief system as being satanic, one should compare how close it comes to Satan's own statements about himself. God is asking him, "How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!" (Isaiah. 14:12). Then He reminds Satan of his own words when he challenged God:

For thou [Satan] hast said in thine heart, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." (Isaiah 14:13-14)

Then later, when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden, he said:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)

Without a doubt, the New Age movement fits that bill.

(From
For Many Shall Come in My Name, Ray Yungen, 2007, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, pp.132-139)

Notes:
1. Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization (San Rafael, CA: Whatever Publishing, 1978), p. 14.
2. Ibid., p. 56.
3. Ibid., p. 91.
4. Ibid., p. 93.
5. James S. Gordon, The Golden Guru (Lexington, MN: The Stephen Greene Press, 1988), p. 8.
6. Donald Yott, Man and Metaphysics (New York, NY: Sam Weiser, Inc., 1980), p. 103.
7. Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization, op. cit., p. 15.
8. David Spangler, Reflections on the Christ (Findhorn Foundation, second edition, 1978), p. 36.
9. Ibid., p. 41.

 

Use Harry Potter to Spread Christian Message?


LTRP Note: This article is from an outside news source. Please see our links below for related information.

Telegraph News (UK) - The Church of England is publishing a guide advising youth workers how to use Harry Potter to spread the Christian message.

Days before the release of the seventh and final novel in the series, youth leaders are being told they could use the popularity of the Potter books and films as a "launch pad" for exploring Christian themes.

The guide - published by Church House Publishing - comes as fans gear up for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday, marking the final chapter in an extraordinary publishing phenomenon.

The Harry Potter books and films have been attacked in the past by evangelicals for allegedly glamorizing the occult.
Click here to read more.

For related information:

The Deadly Magic of Potter Movies

Rick Warren OK With Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Superconsciousness by Ray Yungen

What do "The Secret," Yoga, and Harry Potter have in common? by Caryl Matrisciana

 

America's 50 Most Influential Churches - Many Pro Contemplative/Emergent

The Church Report has released their annual"America's 50 Most Influential Churches" poll. The list is compiled each year by getting the input of around 2000 church pastors and leaders. Last year's list, on which we reported, is very similar to this year's. Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) is in the number one spot, and Saddleback (Rick Warren) is number two. As was the case in last year's poll, many of the churches (and pastors) that made it into one of the 50 spots for 2007 are pro-contemplative and/or pro-emergent churches/pastors. Because the premises of contemplative and emerging are one in the same, we list these churches in just one group. Here is our list of the ones that fit that group:

#1 Willow Creek (Bill Hybels)
#2 Saddleback (Rick Warren)
#3 Fellowship Church (Ed Young)
#4 North Point (Andy Stanley)
#5 Life Church (Craig Groeschel)
#6 Granger Community Church (Mark Beeson)
#10 Sea Coast (Greg Surratt)
#11 Mosaic (Erwin McManus)
#12 Mars Hill (Rob Bell)
#13 North Coast Church (Larry Osborne)
#18 Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale (Bob Coy)
#27 Calvary Chapel Capo Beach (Chuck Smith Jr.)
#31 Menlo Park Presbyterian (John Ortberg)
#35 Wooddale (Leith Anderson)
#39 National Community (Mark Batterson)
#45 Oak Hills (Max Lucado)

There are several others churches that made the list that do not necessarily fall into the contemplative/emergent camp, but show indications that they may be heading that way. In our report last year, we concluded with a statement that still holds true this year:

Many of the 50 are part of and participate in the "new evangelicalism" that approaches Christianity from a business viewpoint with strong New Age affinities. If indeed this list by The Church Report is an accurate estimation of influential churches, it is a valid statement to say that [Christianity] is now in some very troubled waters, both in North America and around the world.

Lighthouse Trails believes that real godly influence should be attributed to the many unrecognized Christian pastors throughout the world who have stayed true to the Word of God and faithfully preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. These shepherds of the body of Christ do not compromise truth with church-growth, seeker-friendly, Purpose-Driven and mystical New Age practices. These are the pastors (and their churches who support them) who should be honored. They are the ones who will stand against the seducing spirits and doctrines of demons that will usher in that false "coming one" who opposes and hates Jesus Christ - the only name in which salvation lies.

 

Christian Bookstores Face Crisis of Faith

LTRP Note: The following article discusses the recent CBA (Christian Bookseller's Association) annual convention. In light of most major Christian publishing houses having turned to contemplative and emerging spiritualities to find profits and growth, we believe this article has some interesting insights. Below the article, please see our links to related topics.

By Dale Hanson Bourke
Religion News Service
ATLANTA -- Here at the International Christian Retail Show [formally CBA show] it is, to borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, the best of times or the worst of times, depending on whom you ask.

Two years ago organizers stopped calling this expo the Christian Booksellers Convention. Book and Bible publishers are no longer the dominant force. They now share the exhibit floor with a dizzying array of T-shirt manufacturers, greeting card companies and even Christian candy makers.

Book publishers point out that Christian retailers are no longer their primary sales channel. Online sellers such as Amazon.com, and such "big box" stores as Wal-Mart, account for an increasing percentage of their profits -- and their attention.
Click here to read more.

Related Information:

Publishers Who Release Contemplative Books

Our articles on Christian Bookstores

 

The Deadly Magic of Potter Movies

by Berit Kjos

Parents who watch the Harry Potter movies may not always be aware of the dark occult world that empower this series. For instance, unlike the book, this dark, disturbing movie doesn't explain the nightmarish scene above. Nor does it describe the murderous spells and curses that kill Sirius Black, Harry's beloved friend and "godfather." To better understand those forces, which has captivated today's youth culture, you may want to read our review of the book behind the fifth movie, The Order of the Phoenix.

You may not know that Sirius, like Harry, was an animagus (shape-shifter) who could turn himself into a large, black dog. This shape-shifting process is sometimes called transmutation. Its roots may not trouble those who delight in Harry's magical world, but Christians should remember that shape-shifting has been part of sorcery and shamanism through the centuries.

In this segment of the seven-part series, Voldemort, the evil wizard with the cravings of a vampire, repeatedly makes his deadly assaults through the jaws of a serpent. And since Harry was psychically linked to this devilish wizard, he participates in the attack as if he were actually inside the snake -- as if Voldemort's spirit had possessed Harry's mind.

But this event is not an example of shape-shifting. Both Harry and Voldemort have the magical ability to "talk" with snakes (parseltongue), but this is different. Harry is now an unwilling participant in Voldemort's mind. He feels his enemy's hatred, shares his thirst for blood, and participates in his murderous action.
Click here to read the rest of this article by Kjos Ministries.

Also see:

Rick Warren OK With Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Superconsciousness by Ray Yungen


What do "The Secret," Yoga, and Harry Potter have in common? by Caryl Matrisciana

 

Lifeway Removes Yoga Music, Keeps Yoga Article

 

Awana Embraces Contemplative Spirituality

In February of 2006, Lighthouse Trails issued a report titled "Awana: Are They Heading Toward Contemplative/Emergent?" The concerns were over the organization's connection with Willow Creek, with Awana's interest in Spiritual Formation and with a recommended ministry list that included a number of contemplative/emergent organizations, including Youth Specialties.1

A year and a half later, Awana is showing signs that it is becoming a full-blown contemplative organization. First of all, through Awana's prison project, the organization is incorporating New Age sympathizer Ken Blanchard's Lead Like Jesus Encounter program. On July 13th, we spoke with Lyndon Azcuna, Awana Cross Cultural Ministries director, who told us he was a Lead Like Jesus facilitator. Azcuna works in the main headquarters office of Awana. He said that the project was using Ken Blanchard's materials. When we explained to him that Blanchard promoted the New Age and mystical meditation, he said that the program did not have these elements.

However, the Lead Like Jesus Encounter is largely based on Blanchard's book, Lead Like Jesus, and that book does include contemplative elements. For instance, in the chapter called "The Habits of a Servant Leader" a palms-up, palms-down exercise is described (something Richard Foster has encouraged)(p. 158). The book gives a typical instruction on contemplative:

Before we send people off for their period of solitude, we have them recite with us Psalm 46:10 in this way: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.... When people return from their time of solitude, they have big smiles on their faces. While many of them found it difficult to quiet their mind,they say it was a powerful experience. The reality is most of us spend little if any time in solitude. Yet if we don't, how can God have a chance to talk with us?

For Awana to include Ken Blanchard's teachings into its organization, shows that the situation is quite serious. Blanchard has been promoting eastern-style meditators for over twenty years, and to this day is still doing so. In addition, he is a board member for the occultic Hoffman [Quadrinity] Institute. Blanchard participated in the Hoffman Process and said it made his spirituality come alive. We believe this experience he had through Hoffman is similar to what Blanchard refers to in his Lead Like Jesus book, when he says people who "quiet their mind[s]" during the Lead Like Jesus Encounter have "powerful experience[s]." This means that now children and families in Awana could possibly wind up with the same experience.

Blanchard, who has been a professing Christian since the 1980s, wrote the foreword for a 2001 book titled What Would Buddha Do at Work?. In the book, Blanchard said:

"Buddha points to the path and invites us to begin our journey to enlightenment. I ... invite you to begin your journey to enlightened work."

Blanchard has made numerous other similar statements about other books. After a 2005 report exposed his connection with Rick Warren (see below), Blanchard placed a statement on a page of his website for a short time that said some of his previous endorsements had been wrong. However, since that time, the endorsements have continued, including his connection with Hoffman Institute. One example of his continued endorsement of meditation practices is his back-cover statement on Jon Gordon's 2006 book, 10-Minute Energy Solution, in which Gordon makes several favorable references to eastern-style meditators and the practice itself (see ATOD, pp. 164-165). Another example is Blanchard's June 2006 endorsement of Thom Crum's book, Three Deep Breaths.

Amazingly, in the book that inspired the Lead Like Jesus Encounter that Awana is using, Blanchard acknowledges Norman Vincent Peale's role in his spiritual walk. According to Ray Yungen (For Many Shall Come in My Name - p. 47), Peale had strong New Thought connections. This could partly explain Blanchard's leanings toward the New Age.

While Awana's decision to include Ken Blanchard's materials into their program is enough evidence to show that the organization is quickly changing, we must now report that there is something even more disquieting with regard to Awana and their slide into contemplative - a book that is recommended by Awana and also carried by the Awana store: Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation. A description of the book is as follows:

In children's ministry, models, methods, and materials abound. How do you decide what direction you want your ministry to children to take? Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation allows you to examine the four prominent points-of-view in the church today. You will then be able to make a more informed decision on the way in which your ministry should take.

The book offers four different views on how to transform children. One author, Scottie May, a professor at Wheaton, writes the section titled, "Contemplative-Reflective Model." May gives a hearty promotion of centering prayer, the Jesus prayer, Christ candles, the Catholic Eucharist and an strong endorsement for contemplative spirituality ala Thomas Merton, whom she favorably quotes in the book. Two Awana staff writers respond in the book to May's contemplative approach and give it a thumbs up with only minor cautions. But overall they believe that contemplative is a valid approach for all Christians, including children. Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation is giving a green light to Awana leaders around the world to practice contemplative prayer.

Some people may not understand why we write this report about Awana. After all, they have done some wonderful things for children. But that is the very reason we do issue this report - we do not want to see Awana sell out to the fast growing apostasy of contemplative spirituality and the New Age; and because we care about children, we speak up. With more and more public schools teaching kids to meditate and do yoga, and with more and more Christian schools bringing in emerging leaders like Rob Bell (through his Noomas and his book Velvet Elvis), millions of children are now placed in harm's way by learning meditative techniques that will possibly take them into altered states and demonic realms. We hope Awana leadership will reconsider their position on contemplative/spiritual formation for the sake of children and their parents. And if you have children in the program, please use extreme caution in light of these new developments.

Let us leave you with this sobering thought: Sue Monk Kidd was at one time a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher. She was led down the road to apostasy (i.e., worshiping the goddess Sophia) through the practice of contemplative prayer after someone handed her a book by Thomas Merton, the same Thomas Merton who is endorsed and quoted in the Awana book, Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation.

For more research information:

Ken Blanchard and the Hoffman Quadrinity Process

Our April 20th 2005 report, Rick Warren Teams Up with New Age Guru Ken Blanchard

Awana Club Now Featuring Book

Extensive database on Lead Like Jesus (CRS)

Spiritual Formation: Another name for contemplative spirituality

"Christian or Christ-Follower?"

 

Hindu Prayer in Senate Draws Religious Protesters

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three protesters disrupted a prayer by a Hindu chaplain on Thursday at the opening of a U.S. Senate hearing, calling it an abomination and shouting slogans about Jesus Christ.

It was the first time the daily prayer that opens Senate proceedings was said by a Hindu chaplain.

Capitol police said two women and one man were arrested and charged with causing a disruption in the public gallery of the Senate. The three started shouting when guest Chaplain Rajan Zed, a Hindu from Nevada, began his prayer. Click
here to read more.

See YouTube on this: click here.

 

Publishing News

  

 Lighthouse Trails Publishing's 2nd spring release, For Many Shall Come in My Name by Ray Yungen is now here.

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Most people believe the New Age has been long gone from our society, and if practiced at all now it is only by unconventional fringe types. For Many Shall Come in My Name reveals this is not the case. In fact, quite the opposite has occurred. The New Age movement (a term not normally used by its proponents) has permeated virtually all aspects of our society. This "Ancient Wisdom" spirituality can be quite readily encountered in the following fields: Business, Education, Health, Self-Help, Religion, and Arts & Entertainment. This book examines them all.

Discusses the following:

1. The Age of Aquarius and its meaning in today's world
2. New Age practices like Reiki and yoga
3. Harry Potter and real witchcraft
4. The law of attraction and Oprah
5. Present day New Age prophets
6. Yoga in the public schools
7. Tantric sexuality and its spiritual risks
8. The Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism)
9. Wicca and its growing appeal
10. The occultic explanation of the Holocaust
11. Interspirituality and the coming false Messiah
12. The New Age as a force in politics
13. New Age hostility toward the church
14. The New Age in light of biblical prophecy

For more information on this book, click here.

 

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For information on our 1st spring release, The Other Side of the River, click here.

 

 

COMING IN AUGUST:

Another Jesus and Faith Undone, both by evangelist/missionary Roger Oakland.

Don't miss these two important books.

 

 

FAITH UNDONE HAS GONE TO PRESS!

 

SAMPLE CHAPTERS OF LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS BOOKS:

Lighthouse Trails Publishing now has sample chapters available online for most of the books we publish. We believe you will find each of these books to be well-written, carefully documented, and worthwhile. Click here to read some of the chapters.

 

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Note: Lighthouse Trails is a Christian publishing company. While we hope you will read the books we have published, we also provide extensive research, documentation, and news on our Research site, blog, and newsletter. We pray that the books as well as the online research will be a blessing to the body of Christ and a witness to those who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

 

 
 

Featured Resources

 
     

Contemplative Spirituality: A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are "spiritual formation," "the silence," "the stillness," "ancient-wisdom," "spiritual disciplines," and many others.

Spiritual Formation: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement.