Archive for the ‘Universalism’ Category
By Will Maule
The graphic artist who played a central role in designing the cover for the controversial novel ‘The Shack’ has said he deeply regrets working on the project, now disagreeing with the book’s contentious theology.
“[O]ver 10 years ago, I was captivated by the story and felt honored to be part of the graphic creation of the book. I was so drawn into it, wanting to know the God it portrayed,” Dave Aldrich of Aldrich Design posted on Facebook. “The Shack’s story wonderfully painted this picture to me of an incredibly knowable and loving God, one full of forgiveness, but without being judgmental.”
Aldrich began to read Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and others, and quickly realized he was on a path to holding universalist beliefs. “I thank the Lord that He pulled me back from that edge,” Aldrich wrote. He realized that if God is full of love, he must also be a righteous judge. Click here to continue reading.
NEW BOOKLET: ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross by Roger Oakland is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross, click here.
ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross
By Roger Oakland
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The heart and core of the Christian faith is based upon Jesus Christ’s shed blood at Calvary as the only acceptable substitutionary atonement for mankind’s sins. The Gospel message requires this foundation. The Bible says the wages of sin is death—thus every person alive should receive the penalty of spiritual death because none of us is without sin. Satan hates the Gospel message. He understands what the Gospel means, and his agenda is to deceive mankind from understanding and believing so they can suffer eternally with him. While Scripture is very clear about the necessity of Christ’s death in order for us to be saved, some believe this would make God a blood-thirsty barbarian and that a loving God would never send His Son to a violent death. Embedded within the structure of the emerging church is just such a belief.
Many in the emerging church movement (i.e., the “new” Christianity/New Spirituality) would vehemently object if someone told them that emerging church leaders don’t like the Cross. They would jump up and say, “Yes, they do. I’ve heard them talk about Jesus and His going to the Cross. They say they love the Cross.”
Some emerging church leaders do say they love the Cross, but an underlying theme has entered the church. It says that while Jesus’ going to the Cross was an example of sacrifice and servanthood that we should follow, the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death for the sins of mankind—well, that is not who God is. A loving God would never do that! Such a violent act would make Christianity a “slaughterhouse religion.”1
Liberal theologian and pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), believed that the doctrine of the atonement, where “Jesus suffered as a substitute for us” because of our sins, is a “precivilized barbarity.”2 In his book, The Modern Use of the Bible, Fosdick says that Jesus’ going to the Cross should be seen as an example of a life of service and sacrifice and not compared with “old animal sacrifices” and “made ‘a pious fraud’ played by God upon the devil.”3 In Fosdick’s book Dear Mr. Brown, he states:
Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice, Christ saved the world.4
Fosdick ends that statement with a pronounced—“No!” He insists, “These legalistic theories of the atonement are in my judgment a theological disgrace.”5 Fosdick considered the idea that God would actually send His Son to die on a Cross to take our place to be the basis for a violent and bloody religion. He rejected the biblical message of an atonement and substitutionary sacrifice.
Fosdick was the pastor of Riverside Church of New York City from 1925 to 1946. While he has been long gone, his ideologies have remained intact and have drifted right into the evangelical church through emergent leaders. In October 2006, Riverside Church held the 5th Fosdick Convocation in honor of their former pastor. Two of the emerging church’s most influential teachers were there as speakers in honor of Fosdick—Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo.6 As I will show you, McLaren resonates with Fosdick’s view of the Cross.
False Advertising for God
In an interview, Brian McLaren questioned the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death, calling it “false advertising for God”:
[O]ne of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.7 (emphasis added)
What an extraordinary example of faith under attack. If McLaren is right, all those who have ever lived and believed in Christ’s atonement have been misled and wrong. McLaren has taken the freedom to reconstruct what faith means by distorting the Scriptures, or worse yet, saying the very opposite of what the inspired Word of God says. This is blasphemy! McLaren also states:
And I heard one well-known Christian leader, who—I won’t mention his name, just to protect his reputation. ‘Cause some people would use this against him. But I heard him say it like this: The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.8
To further elaborate on McLaren’s rejection of the message of Christ’s atonement through His blood, we look to Episcopal priest Alan Jones. In his book Reimagining Christianity, Jones carries through with this idea that God never intended Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to be considered a payment for our sins:
The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.9
The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution [the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine.10
Brian McLaren has endorsed Reimagining Christianity and says of the book:
Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.11
That God Does Not Exist
This idea of rejecting God’s judgment placed on Jesus Christ instead of us is integrated into the teachings of many others. William Shannon (biographer of Catholic monk and mystic Thomas Merton) said:
This is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people . . . He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger . . . This God does not exist.12 (emphasis added)
So in other words, according to Fosdick, McLaren, and Shannon, Jesus should be seen as a model of sacrifice to follow in our own lives, but to view God the Father as a judge against sin is not a proper view of God. Those who reject the atonement realize the greatest threat to their heretical views is those who take the Scriptures literally and seriously. Fosdick explains:
Were you to talk to that fundamentalist preacher, he doubtless would insist that you must believe in the “substitutionary” theory of atonement—namely, that Jesus suffered as a substitute for us the punishment due us for our sins. But can you imagine a modern courtroom in a civilized country where an innocent man would be deliberately punished for another man’s crime? . . . [S]ubstitutionary atonement . . . came a long way down in history in many a penal system. But now it is a precivilized barbarity; no secular court would tolerate the idea for a moment; only in certain belated theologies is it retained as an explanation of our Lord’s death . . . Christ’s sacrificial life and death are too sacred to be so misrepresented.13
This is a perfect example of how the emerging church turns doctrine it doesn’t understand (or accept) into a mockery against Scripture and God’s plan of salvation. God’s ways are not our ways and to expect them to line up with our own human reasoning is ludicrous:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The late Catholic contemplative author Brennan Manning (a favorite among many evangelicals) joined the ranks of those who rejected the substitutionary atonement. In his book Above All, Manning quotes William Shannon almost word for word, regarding the atonement:
[T]he god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger . . . the god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.14 (emphasis added)
Dying for the Sins of the World
The late Marcus Borg (another favorite among evangelicals) was a lecturer and the author of several books, some of which are Jesus and Buddha, The God We Never Knew, and Reading the Bible Again for the First Time:
Taking the Bible Seriously But not Literally. His thinking greatly influenced the emerging church movement and its leaders. Brian McLaren had “high regard”15 for Borg, and the two of them participated in a seminar series at an interspiritual center in Portland, Oregon one summer.16 Rob Bell (a major influencer among young evangelicals) references and praises Borg in his still-popular book Velvet Elvis.17 Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary and one of the contributors to Richard Foster’s Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible, considers Borg an essential part of the “new” Christianity. Brueggemann states:
Marcus Borg is a key force in the emerging “new paradigm” of Christian faith.18
Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:
I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God.. . . I realized that whatever “divine revelation” and the “inspiration of the Bible” meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.19
This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say:
Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.20
If what Borg is saying is true, then we would have to throw out John 3:16 which says God so loved the world He gave His only Son, and we would have to dismiss the theme of a blood offering that is prevalent throughout all of Scripture. In the Old Testament, it is clear:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)
But Borg rejects this emphasis:
To think that the central meaning of Easter [resurrection] depends upon something spectacular happening to Jesus’ corpse misses the point of the Easter message and risks trivializing the story. To link Easter primarily to our hope for an afterlife, as if our post-death existence depends upon God having transformed the corpse of Jesus, is to reduce the story to a politically-domesticated yearning for our survival beyond death.21
What is behind this mindset? Listen to one New Ager describe what underlies this line of thought:
Jesus was an historical person, a human becoming Christ, the Christos is an eternal transpersonal condition of being. Jesus did not say that this higher state of consciousness realized in him was his alone for all time. Nor did he call us to worship him. Rather, he called us to follow him, to follow in his steps, to learn from him, from his example.22
Fosdick would resonate with this. When he says, “Christ’s sacrificial life and death are too sacred to be so misrepresented,” he means that Christ is an example to be followed, not an innocent sacrifice for our guilt and thus worthy of praise and worship. Satan wants desperately to be worshiped and adored as God. He hates all that Jesus’ death stands for. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, purchased with His own blood the lives of those written in the Book of Life.
A very popular author today, William Paul Young (author of The Shack) also rejects the idea that Christ’s shed blood was needed to save man. He has come right out and said this openly.23 And yet, many Christian leaders promote both Young and The Shack without any qualms.
The Bible says, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22), and also, “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Are we to reject these Scriptures and other ones as well that speak of the atonement because it doesn’t sound logical? Scripture tells us that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. We need to recognize that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is our final authority, and we must adhere to the truth of its teachings.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.. . . And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:10, 14)
Many in the emerging church may insist they do not hold to the distorted view on the atonement that this booklet has described. But it is important to understand that the underlying nature of this view of rejecting the atonement is panentheistic (God in all) and pantheistic (God is all), which is the “fruit” of practicing contemplative mysticism. To put it in plain terms, one of the key characteristics of the emerging church is engaging in mystical prayer practices (i.e., contemplative). This in turn produces a drastic change in spiritual outlook that over times takes on panentheistic views. And when that happens, a new perspective on the atonement always occurs because when one believes man is divine (god within), then he believes man does not need to have anyone make atonement for him. A substitutionary death (taking a sinner’s place) on the Cross would not be necessary and in fact, would be an insult to man’s own divine nature. It would be humiliating. Like Thomas Merton said, if we really knew what was in each one of us, we would fall down and worship one another.24 He and other contemplatives say that man’s biggest problem isn’t a sinful nature; no, it’s that he does not realize he is divine.
If Jesus’ going to the Cross and shedding blood was merely an act of service and sacrifice, an example for others to follow, and was not actually a substitutionary payment for the sins of humanity, then why celebrate the resurrection as so many churches do? It would make no sense. Churches that cling to contemplative/emergent ideologies and practices should consider this. While they cling to one (contemplative), they’re on the road to denying the other (the atonement) . . . even if they don’t realize it.
To order copies of ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross, click here.
1. Beka Horton, Church History and Things to Come (Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Christian College, 1997 printing), p. 156.
2. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1961), p. 136.
3. Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Modern Use of the Bible (New York NY: The Macmillan Company, 1924), p. 230.
4. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown, op. cit., p. 135.
5. Ibid., p. 134-135.
6. Riverside City Church, New York City, http://www.the riversidechurchny.org/getinvolved/?fosdick-speakers.
7. Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1: http://bleeding purple podcast.blog spot.com/2006/01/brian-mclaren-interview-part-i.html; Part II: http://bleedingpurplepodcast.blog spot.com/2006/01/interview-with-brian-mclaren-part-ii.html).
8. Ibid., part II.
9. Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, 2005), p. 132.
10. Ibid., p. 168.
11. Ibid., Brian McLaren on back cover.
12. William Shannon, Silence on Fire (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995 edition), pp. 109-110.
13. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown, op. cit., p. 136.
14. Brennan Manning, Above All (Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2003), pp. 58-59.
15. Statement by Brian McLaren on McLaren’s website: http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000201.html, “What about other websites?”
16. The Center for Spiritual Development, 2006 Summer Seminar called “The Church in the 21st Century” where Brian McLaren and Marcus Borg were two of the speakers, http://www.center-for-spiritual-development.org/DVDCatalog.html.
17. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), pp. 180, 184.
18. Walter Brueggemann cited on United Theological Seminary website: http://www.united.edu in reference to Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity.
19. Marcus Borg, The God We Never Knew (New York, NY: HarperCollins, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 1998), p. 25.
21. Marcus Borg, “Easter About Life, Not Death” (Washington Post/Newsweek “On Faith” column, April 7, 2004, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/marcus_borg/2007/04/easter_not_about_death_but_lif.html).
22. John White (Science of Mind, September 1981), p. 15.
23. This is documented on the Lighthouse Trails Research site: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=22246.
24. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1989 edition), pp. 157-158.
To order copies of ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross, click here.
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.
In 2009, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled “The Shack Author Rejects Biblical Substitutionary Atonement.” The article was largely based on an interview that The Shack author William Paul Young did. Below is a partial transcript of the interview between Young and a pastor named Kendall Adams. When your Christian friends, family members, pastors, and church members tell you they are going to go and see the upcoming movie, The Shack, ask them if they really understand what The Shack author believes. You may listen to the entire interview by clicking here. You can also pass out Warren B. Smith’s article/booklet The Shack and Its New Age Leaven and Substitution: He Took Our Place by Harry Ironside.
On the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (that Jesus Christ took the penalty for our sins on the cross):
Adams: “On page 120 [of The Shack] where God says, you know, I don’t punish sin, sin is it’s own punishment, you know, this is when Mack , um, is having a hard time with his view of God pouring out wrath, etc. But then when it says, “Mackenzie, I don’t need to punish people for sin. I guess when people read the scripture my question is, doesn’t God…hasn’t God, and doesn’t He…punish sin?”
William Young: “Some of it is semantics, we’re dealing with the concept of the wrath of God and, and here’s an underlying question. “Do you believe that God does anything that is not motivated by love?”
Adams: “Well I think in scripture we have wrath, we have justice, we have mercy-”
Young: “I understand…but…”
Adams: “…we do have love, so…”
Young: “Do you believe that God does anything that is not motivated by love, cuz love is his onthological character, it’s his being, justice is an activity of God, uh, wrath is an activity of God, so…”
Adams: “So you do believe though, that he does punish sin…”
Young: “I..I believe in the wrath of God, absolutely, but, but the wrath of God is, is always couched, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodly (undecipherable word here) and unrighteousness of men, it’s not against the men, it’s against everything that is damaging them, hurting them, causing them to sin against eachother, everything that is contrary to his nature, and um…so…”
Young “I, I absolutely believe in the wrath of God, yes, but I believe it’s motivated by love .”
Adams: “But this love also, and just as you quoted, you know, you mentioned uh the lake of fire, etc., it does say that there is torment day and night, so there is punishment, torment…”
Young: “Ya, and it, it is in the presence of the Lamb.”
Adams: “Here’s my question, if God doesn’t punish sin, what is the cross then, because if Jesus took our punishment on the cross, if he died for our sins, he was taking our punishment. If God doesn’t punish sin it seems like that demeans the whole concept of the cross.”
Young: “Oh, not at all. Look, the cross is, is the plan of God from before the foundation of the world, to redeem us back from being lost, being in the grip of our sin and lostness and idolatry and everything else, it’s absolutely essential. There’s no hope for any human being let alone the human race apart from the cross.”
Adams: “So you do believe that Christ was punished, then, for our sin.”
Young: “I believe that, that Christ became sin for us.”
Adams: “I mean that he was a sacrifice, that he was punished, he took…”
Young: “Uhuh…by who?”
Adams: “The Father.”
Young: “Why…why would the Father punish His son?”
Adams: “Because sin demanded justice, it, it demanded-”
Young: “Oh, it, but it, where was Father when the Son was on the cross?”
Adams: “In your book, when it says, um, Mack had a problem with ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and God basically says, ‘Mack, I never left him’…”
Young: “That’s right.”
Adams: “When Jesus said ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ it…”
Young: “Ya, he’s quoting, he’s also quoting and doing the cry of David in the Psalms, and in Psalms that’s totally reconciled within the Psalms. The next thing that he says, even though that’s exactly what he feels for the first time as a human being who was born of the spirit, baptized of the spirit, filled with the spirit, for the first time, he doesn’t sense the presence of the Father, and in that he cries out. But Paul the apostle comes up later, and Jesus first says, but into your hands I commit my spirit, so he’s still saying, you’re here. And Paul says, where was God the Father? For God the Father, 2 Cor. 5:19, was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them. So where was God the Father? You…and where did reconciliation happen? I believe it happened on the cross. And it says that God the Father was in His son reconciling the world to himself.”
Adams: “Ya, many see that as Christ being the agency of our reconciliation but that when, you know, that Christ was taking the wrath of God upon him, I, I take it that you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t agree that the cross was a place of punishment for our sin.”
Young: “No. I don’t, I am not a penal substitution …reformation…point of view.”
Adams: “But isn’t that the heart of the gospel? Is that the heart of the gospel?”
Young: “No! Ha, no! The heart of the gospel is that we are, are so pursued, the heart of the gospel is in Ephesians 1:5. He predestined us before the foundation of the world to be adopted as sons and everything is by, for and through Jesus, and when Jesus dies, all die, all die.”
Adams: “But all the sac- all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, they were for the sins of the person, as they laid the hand on the lamb, or, or the Passover, you know the lamb’s blood was shed and put on the doorposts so when the death angel came it passed over, that way…”
Young: “And, and I understand uh, ya, I’m not saying that I don’t agree with some sense of substitutionary atonement.”
Adams: “But you disagree…”
Young: “But it’s way broader (muffled) than that.”
Adams: “But if you reject a penal substitution that Christ died as a penalty for our sins, it seems like that is the, that is the Christian faith.”
Young: “I don’t know if you’re aware, but that’s a huge debate that’s going on in theology right now within the evangelical community.”
Adams: “It is, and I, and I, and I would say everything hangs on that, I mean, there’s so many scriptures that Christ died for our sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3 -”
Young: “Oh, and, and I, I agree with that, I, he became sin for us..”
Adams: “No, he died for our sins. Romans said, the Father delivered him over for our sin. If he didn’t, if he wasn’t delivered for my sin…”
Young: “I’m not disagreeing with any of those passages at all, it’s just that how do we understand it? And how do we define what exactly took place? And I’m saying, that there is a huuuuuge amount of disagreement among theologians, about what all that means.”
Young: “And so there is, you know, a degree of ambiguity there. And uh, what I’m saying everything that happened there, is the purpose of father, son and holy spirit, and that purpose is, our redemption, is salvation, reconciliation, and I don’t see, um, that it’s necessary to have the father, uh, punish, in that sense, the son!”
Adams: “Ya, we could, this is, I think this is an important issue.”
According to an article in the Catholic Herald, Pope Francis has proposed six new beatitudes. The article states:
At the Mass, which took place at the conclusion of his ecumenical trip to the country, Pope Francis highlighted the lives of the Swedish saints Elizabeth Hesselblad and Bridget of Vadstena. . . . New situations require new energy and a new commitment, he said, and then offered a new list of Beatitudes for modern Christians.
Four of the “new beatitudes” had to do with forgiving others, caring about the earth, and helping the poor and needy. One of them was ecumenical in nature: — Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians [meaning Christians and Catholics], and the second resonated with earlier comments Pope Francis has made to indicate that this pope is not only ecumenical, he is also interspiritual (all paths lead to God) and panentheistic (God is in all).
— Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.—Francis
NEW BOOKLET TRACT: Goddess Worship in America and How It’s Affecting the Church by Maria Kneas and John Lanagan is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. Be sure to scroll past the endnotes to read Part 2 and view a chart. To order copies of Goddess Worship in America and How It’s Affecting the Church, click here.
Goddess Worship in America and How It’s Affecting the Church
The worship of pagan goddesses is most obvious with Wiccans. However, it is also common in universities and nursing schools. It is promoted by the media and is a component of New Age feminism. What’s more, it has infiltrated mainline denominational churches and its influence can be felt throughout our society.
This movement is impacting our culture and especially the younger generation. One troubling aspect of it is that, according to some of its proponents, facts and logic are “patriarchal,” and therefore they are irrelevant. As you will see, some so-called scholars openly say it is all right to make things up and present them as if they were historical facts.
Philip G. Davis is a professor of religious studies at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada. He wrote the book Goddess Unmasked because he saw that goddess worship was being taken seriously in religious institutions and that myths about the goddess were being taught as factual history on campus. Much of the footnoted documentation in the first section of this booklet comes from his book.
Creating a Goddess-Friendly Culture
The “Age of Enlightenment” gave birth to rationalist materialism. In reaction against this denial of the importance of emotions, a generation of Romantic poets, novelists, artists, musicians and philosophers developed. Many of them were involved with drugs, the occult, Rosicrucianism, or Freemasonry.
Following Darwin’s theory of evolution, they speculated wildly about the evolution of society. Nationalism became a romantic search for pagan roots, as seen in Wagner’s operas and the fairy tales researched by the Brothers Grimm. Womanhood was idealized. The myth of a past utopian matriarchy was developed. Psychologist Carl Jung idealized the concept of the “anima,” the feminine side of man.1
Romanticism even invaded history and archaeology. Bachoven developed a theory of matriarchy openly based on imagination and not on searching for hard facts. Feminist scholars followed Bachoven’s lead. A historic myth was developed in which an ideal, matriarchal, goddess-worshiping society was destroyed by patriarchal invaders who brought with them all the ills of modern society.2
The scholarship involved in these studies of history and archaeology is so faulty that Philip Davis says:
An important lesson of this book is the ease with which patent falsehoods may clothe themselves in the garb of scholarship and masquerade as truth.3
Feminist scholars and other academic radicals say objective facts and historical accuracy are not even a valid goal:
A feminist scholar told her audience that it is indeed “ethical” for an historian to ignore historical evidence in order to construct a narrative . . . while still presenting it as history.4
In addition to “constructing narratives” (i.e., making up stories and presenting it as history), many academic radicals “explicitly reject the quest for objective truth; they claim that objectivity is not only impossible to achieve in pure form, but actually illegitimate in the first place because it expresses a patriarchal, oppressive mentality.”5
Before full-blown goddess worship developed in the 1950s, American art showed popular imagination being prepared for it. For example, the Statue of Liberty looks like a Greek goddess and is over three hundred feet high. The inscription presents the statue as speaking, and she calls herself “Mother of Exiles.”6 A 1915 poster for the Red Cross shows an American nurse with a billowing, hooded cape that makes her look like a cross between a nurse and a Greek goddess. She carries a placard which says:
I am the Red Cross of Peace. I heal the wounds of war. I am a refuge from fire, flood and pestilence. The love of little children is mine.7
The National Academy of Sciences has a Great Hall done in Byzantine architecture designed to look like a “temple of science.” The dome of that hall looks like it belongs in a cathedral, except it has figures that look like Greek goddesses. Science is personified as a goddess, with an inscription that says:
To science, pilot of industry, conqueror of disease, multiplier of the harvest, explorer of the universe, revealer of nature’s laws, eternal guide to truth.8
The Wiccan Goddess
Wicca was developed in England by Gerald B. Gardner, the first fully public witch of modern times. He was a spiritualist, a Freemason, and a Rosicrucian, with an extensive background in the occult.
Gardner was a member of the Golden Dawn. Aleister Crowley (a satanist) initiated Gardner into the fourth degree of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis). Gardner was acquainted with a witch named “old Dorothy Fordham” and claimed to have been initiated into a coven. He used various occult texts in developing his rituals, including texts that were written by Aleister Crowley.9
Aiden Kelley, a Wiccan trained in biblical criticism, applied his critical skills to Gardner’s archive. Based on Kelley’s findings, Philip Davis concludes that:
First, [Kelly’s] identification of Gardner’s literary sources leaves little doubt that Gardner’s own witchcraft texts were his personal creation and not something handed on to him from an ancient tradition.10
Therefore, it is difficult to know how much Gardner’s Wicca resembles ancient witchcraft.
Doreen Valiente was Gardner’s High Priestess. She was informed enough to spot the passages from Crowley in the rituals, and she rewrote them so that Crowley’s name would not discourage potential inquirers.
Initially, the male, horned god and the High Priest were preeminent. By the mid-1960s, the goddess was the supreme deity in Wicca, and ritual authority was vested in the High Priestess.11
Through Wicca, goddess worship has infiltrated our American culture:
The appearance of the Goddess in other radical feminist circles, and then in churches and universities, did not occur until after the establishment of modern witchcraft as a viable new religion.12
Goddess spirituality seems well on the way to becoming the most successful of all these neopagan manifestations in the English-speaking world.13
Wicca presents itself as a wholesome worship of a gentle, benevolent goddess. It’s motto is, “An ye do none harm do what ye will.” However, in real life the results of Wicca are not wholesome at all.
The Goddess and Mainline Churches
In November 1993, a Re-imagining Conference was held in Minneapolis. Most of the 2,000 participants were women.14
This was an ecumenical church conference attended by Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and members of almost a dozen other denominations. They invoked Sophia, the goddess of Wisdom, calling her their Creator. Prayers and liturgies were addressed to this goddess. Communion consisted of milk and honey instead of bread and wine.
They openly rejected the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement. “Christian” lesbians were applauded for coming out of the closet. They encouraged “sex among friends” as a norm.
This conference was initiated by, sponsored by, and attended by representatives of the major American churches.15
Re-imagining was an unprecedented event: an interdenominational assembly of Christians openly bent on destroying the historic Christian religion root and branch, and steering the churches into wholesale neopaganism.16
Neopagan and Wiccan themes are amazingly prominent within older religious establishments. One reason for this is the quest for “inclusive” language and the attempt to apply more female imagery to God. Liturgy reform and revised hymnals have featured feminine imagery and metaphors for God the Mother.17
The Unitarian-Universalist church developed a ten-session workshop on feminism, which encourages goddess worship and even endorses witchcraft. This workshop is called Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. It has been circulated through the major denominations and adopted for use in many mainstream churches.18 The following quotation from Jeremiah gives God’s perspective about this:
Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. (Jeremiah 7:16-18, emphasis added)
A Canadian television station ran a five-part series titled Return of the Goddess, which introduced many people to goddess worship. The National Film Board of Canada produced Goddess Remembered, which became one of their most popular productions ever, being featured by public broadcasting TV stations in the United States as well as in Canada. Cakes for the Queen of Heaven and Goddess Remembered have both become staples for study groups in some major denominations.19
The Goddess and the University
The credibility of goddess worship has been increased by its acceptance by university professors and its incorporation into textbooks.20
[T]he doctrines of a new religion are being packaged and promoted as factual material for use in publicly funded and accredited institutions of higher education.21
The broader plans of gender feminism seem to have been most fully articulated, promoted, and implemented among academics. Some feminists have even demanded that the goddess be given parity with the God of the Bible in university religion programs. This will impact our entire society because universities and colleges are training most of our future leaders, including government, health care, and the clergy.22
[R]adical professors are . . . using the classroom for recruitment, turning students into political activists. The campus, therefore, is a natural place to look for signs of the radical feminist New Age as it emerges.23
The Goddess and Health Care
Goddess worship has become strong in the field of health care, particularly nursing. Health care professionals are actively promoting New Age practices. For example, the occultic “therapeutic touch” (passing one’s hands above a patient’s body in order to manipulate auras and energy fields) has reportedly been taught to thousands of nurses in eighty North American nursing programs..24
Goddess worship has been overtly promoted, as can be seen from the following quotation from the National League for Nursing, which is an accrediting agency for nursing schools:
Women’s wisdom is ageless and timeless, and passes from generation to generation primarily by oral tradition. . . . These origins are grounded in women’s experiences, female symbolism, and the spiritual roots of the Triple Goddess.25
In Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing, he discusses Sue Monk Kidd, who was once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. She began practicing contemplative prayer (a “Christian” mystical prayer practice similar to eastern meditation) and eventually turned away from the God of the Bible to worship the “goddess Sophia.”26 And while what has happened to her is very obvious, many Christians still read her books!
What Can We Do?
This booklet is just an introduction to goddess worship in America. I could give many more examples of how this has affected our society and the church. We need to be informed so we can help people we know who have become confused by these things. God may show us practical things we can do. Above all, we need to take the following Scripture seriously,and apply it to our daily lives.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5) (See Part 2 Below)
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1. Philip G. Davis, Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality (Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 1999), chapters 2 through 12.
2. Ibid., chapters 2, 11 and 12.
3. Ibid., p. ix.
4. Ibid., p. 360.
6. Information obtained by phone from the Public Information Office of the Statue of Liberty.
7. This poster is in the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. A picture of it appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 29, 1998, p. D-1.
8. The National Academy of Sciences—The Main Foyer and the Great Hall: This says that the architect wanted to create a “temple of science,” www.nasonline.org/about-nas/visiting/nas/nas-building/the-main-foyer-and-the-great.html; The Great Hall: This shows pictures of some of the goddesses. You can see that the ceiling looks like a cathedral rather than a science building, www.nasonline.org/about-nas/visiting-nas/nas-building/the-great-hall.html.
9. Philip G. Davis, Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality, op. cit., p. 334.
11. Ibid., pp. 336-337.
12. Ibid., p. 341.
13. Ibid., p. 343.
15. Philip G. Davis, Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality, op. cit., pp. 3-4, 28-29.
16. Ibid., p. 29.
17. Ibid., pp. 24-25, 27.
18. Ibid., pp. 24-25.
19. Ibid., pp. 25-27.
20. Ibid., pp. 29-31.
21. Ibid., p. 31.
22. Ibid., pp. 361, 363.
23. Ibid., p. 361.
24. Ibid., pp. 31-33.
25. Charlene E. Wheeler and Peggy L. Chinn, Peace and Power: A Handbook of Feminist Process (New York, NY: National League for Nursing, 3rd edition), pp. xi-xii. Quoted in Goddess Unmasked, p. 32.
26. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd edition, 2006), pp. 135-136.
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PART 2: The Shack—Father-Goddess Rising
By John Lanagan
Many Christians have credited the New York Times best-seller The Shack, (the novel by William P. Young) with revolutionizing their faith. With themes of overcoming loss, working through anger, and restored relationship between man and God, Young’s novel has excited many within the Body of Christ.
The Shack was on the New York Times best-seller list for 52 weeks at #1 (over 170 weeks all together), and has sold over twenty million copies in 40 languages. It continues to sell briskly to a mostly Christian readership. Yet, in the midst of such enthusiasm, does The Shack, glorify Jesus Christ—or does it contradict the Bible with a false image of the Lord our God?
The novel’s main character, Mack Phillips, has lost his daughter. She has been murdered, her bloodied dress found in an isolated shack. Four years later Mack receives an invitation from God to spend time with the Trinity in the very shack where the dress was found.
Even though there is nowhere in the Bible where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit simultaneously assume physical forms on earth, The Shack portrays Jesus as a carpenter, the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman, and God the Father as a large black woman named Papa.
The Shack’s “God” comes to Mack in a form he is willing to accept. While the novel’s feminization of the Lord is as trendy as it is Babylonian, the reader rapidly becomes used to descriptions of God as “she” and “her.” At one point, the book’s version of Jesus praises the fictional Father-goddess, exclaiming, “Isn’t she great?”1
Malachi 3:6 states, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” God is Spirit. In the entire Bible, there is not one single reference to Father, Son, or Holy Spirit—or to any of His angels—as female. Is it wise then to go beyond what has been presented in Scripture?
Unfortunately, this seems a frequent occurrence in The Shack. The Father-goddess character tells Mack she appears in female form “to help you keep from falling back so easily into your religious conditioning.”2 The author and his publishing team apparently assume Christians believe the Lord is an old white man with a beard and have produced the book in part to help straighten out the church’s perception of God.
There is an apparent dismissal of the importance of Scripture, which is reflected in slippery theology found throughout the novel. Young writes, “Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?”3 Guilt edges? A not-so-subtle suggestion that we should not feel guilty or convicted about our sins.
The Father-goddess of The Shack, it seems, is never about guilt or punishment. She benignly informs Mack, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring people from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”4
That sounds wonderful. And, yes, sin enslaves. However, the The Shack’s “God” contradicts the Bible. Jesus “shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Although most sermons these days skirt the issue, Christians do receive punishment (i.e., disciplining) during our time on earth:
[T]he Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (Hebrews 12:6-7)
But, this is not the message of the Father-goddess, simply because this is not the God of Scripture. Young, a gifted writer, plays to emotion and touches on legitimate hurts and concerns, excelling at imbuing his “God” with attributes of love, forgiveness, and mercy, and this is what many people have responded to.
Increasingly in novels and movies, the Lord is blithely used as one of the characters and given words from the mouth of man. In this sense, the author of The Shack, is simply following the culture.
But something else is going on here—
Universal Reconciliation (UR) is the belief that Jesus’ sacrifice allows Christians and non-Christians to spend eternity with God. In other words, in UR theology, everybody goes to heaven, not just followers of Jesus. Some in this camp even believe this includes the devil and his demons. And as one New Ager pointed out (Neale Donald Walsch) in his highly popular book Conversations with God, even Hitler will go to Heaven!5
Co-author of The Shack,Wayne Jacobsen, acknowledges that UR was included in earlier versions of The Shack. Jacobsen explains:
While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR and didn’t want to be part of a project that promoted it.6
So why did Jacobsen proceed to join forces with Young? He writes:
To me that was the beauty of the collaboration . . . the author would say that some of that dialogue significantly affected his views. . . . Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.7
Perhaps, but this allegedly former theology even now seems to explain some of the content of the book.
The Bible clearly teaches the only way to God the Father is through Jesus Christ, who loved us enough to die for us. Early in The Shack, Mack’s daughter asks if the Great Spirit, the Native American god, is another name for the Father of Jesus. Mack tells her . . . yes. He may as well have told her that Allah (or any other false patriarchal god) is also the Father of Jesus.
Of course, if everybody is going to heaven because of UR, what does it matter? God, Great Spirit, Allah, what’s the difference?
His daughter asks the question because Mack tells the story of an Indian princess who willingly died so her people could be delivered of an illness. According to an Indian prophecy, it could be ended only through her sacrifice. The author states, “After praying and giving herself to the Great Spirit, she fulfilled the prophecy by jumping without hesitation to her death on the rocks below.”8
When his daughter calls the Great Spirit “mean” for making both Jesus and the princess die, Mack never clarifies that Jesus’ Father is not the Great Spirit or that God the Father has nothing to do with this pagan legend.
Some may ask if Young still has UR leanings? In his article, “The Beauty of Ambiguity,” it is not his character Mack but Young himself who speaks to the Father-goddess. He denies being a universalist and proclaims “faith in Jesus is the only way into your embrace.”9
In the article, Young is having a conversation with Father-goddess, who asks, “I take it that it wouldn’t bother you if I decided to save every human being that ever lived?”
“Nope. I actually hope you’ve figured a way to do just that,” he replies.10
Young’s goddess Father will save everyone through Young’s belief in Universal Reconciliation. This directly contradicts Jesus Christ:
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)
Although Young then proceeds to voice acceptance of the reality of hell, he complains to his fictional Father-goddess:
[W]hy couldn’t you have made things clear? People go to the Bible and find all these ways to disagree with each other . . . Everybody seems to want to acquire their little piece of doctrinal territory . . . Some find support for Universal Reconciliation; some find proofs for eternal torment in hell.11
Young continues with his list. Issues run the gamut from Calvinism to eschatology and, having inserted Universal Reconciliation into the mix, his fictional Father-goddess never corrects him. No surprise there. Is this perhaps an attempt to at least infer valid consideration of UR by including it amongst a hodge-podge of doctrinal concerns?
Incredibly, Young’s Father-goddess clarifies (?) that she made much of the Bible ambiguous on purpose! I find it chilling that the author, or any person, would dare present doctrinal confusion as the intended plan of God—and via a fictional character at that. But, that’s the way it is these days.
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. (2 Timothy 4:3)
It’s going to get worse. Goddess worship, false christs, and many other heresies will continue to rise. Movies, novels, and TV will become increasingly blasphemous.
Readers of this novel would do well to examine biblical teaching about the Trinity, sin, repentance, communication with the dead, and much else.
Many in the Body of Christ have run to get a copy of The Shack. Far better, brothers and sisters, to just run.
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1. William Paul Young, The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-9647292-3-0, printing: 50 49 48 47), p. 90.
2. Ibid., p. 95
3. Ibid., p. 68.
4. Ibid., p. 122.
5. Warren B. Smith, “If Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) and the New Agers are Right, Then Hitler Will Be in Heaven!” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=6090).
6. Wayne Jacobsen, “Is the Shack Heresy?” (Windblown Media, http://web.archive.org/web/20080714200042/http://www.windblownmedia.com/shackresponse.html).
8. William Paul Young, The Shack, op. cit., p. 30.
9. William P. Young, “The Beauty of Ambiguity” (The Clarion Journal, http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2008/03/the-beauty-of-a.html).
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A Chart on Goddess Worship
by Berit Kjos (www.crossroad.to)
Praying to God Affirming the goddess
Our Father in heaven Our Mother, the Earth
Holy is Your Name Sacred and perfect am I
Your Kingdom Come My vision come
Your will be done My will be done
Give us . . . daily bread Don’t give . . . I own . . .
Forgive us . . . as we forgive I choose to forgive—or curse
Lead us not into temptation Temptation? I form my own values
Deliver us from evil There is no sin or evil
For Yours is the . . . power Mine is the power
. . . forever! Nothing is permanent or absolute
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By Ray Yungen
Two authors from Great Britain portray a stunningly clear picture of New Age spirituality. They explain:
[T]he keynote of it appears to be a movement for synthesis derived from an understanding of the underlying unity behind all things and the sense of oneness that this brings.
This oneness of all life is the crux of the New Age movement.17
Catholic monk M. Basil Pennington defined the contemplative spiritual worldview in his book Thomas Merton My Brother. He related:
The Spirit enlightened him [Merton] in the true synthesis [unity] of all and in the harmony of that huge chorus of living beings. In the midst of it he lived out a vision of a new world, where all divisions have fallen away and the divine goodness is perceived and enjoyed as present in all and through all.18
The first viewpoint describes God as the oneness of all existence. In Merton’s new world, God is perceived as being present “in all and through all.” It certainly appears that the same spirit enlightened both parties. The only difference was Merton’s revelation worked in a Christian context just as occultist Alice Bailey predicted. Unfortunately, this context is now commonplace in Catholic circles, becoming so in mainline Protestant churches, and being eagerly explored and embraced by an ever-increasing number of evangelical Christians.
Evangelical leaders now debate whether such spiritual truths as resting in God are the same as contemplative silence. Based on these presented documentations, I believe contemplative prayer has no place in true Christianity. Scripture clearly teaches that with salvation comes an automatic guidance system—the Holy Spirit. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his outstanding book Grace: The Glorious Theme, spells out this truth with crystal-clear clarity:
It is stated in Romans 5:5 that “the Spirit is given to us.” This is true of every person who is saved. The Spirit is the birth-right in the new life. By Him alone can the character and service that belongs to the normal daily life of the Christian be realized. The Spirit is the “All-Sufficient One.” Every victory in the new life is gained by His strength, and every reward in glory will be won only as a result of His enabling power.19
Show me a Scripture in the Bible in which the Holy Spirit is activated or accessed by contemplative prayer. If such a verse exists, wouldn’t it be the keynote verse in defense of contemplative prayer?
I want to emphasize what I believe cuts through all the emotional appeal that has attracted so many to teachers like Richard Foster and Brennan Manning and really boils the issue down to its clearest state.
In his book Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster emanates his hoped-for vision of an “all inclusive community” that he feels God is forming today. He sees this as “a great, new gathering of the people of God.”20
On the surface, this might sound noble and sanctifying, but a deeper examination will expose elements that line up more with Alice Bailey’s vision than with Jesus Christ’s. Foster prophesies:
I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people.21
The only place in “the hills of Kentucky” where Catholic monks live is the Gethsemane Abbey, a Trappist monastery. This also, coincidentally, was the home base of Thomas Merton.
Let me explain this significant connection. In the summer of 1996, Buddhist and Catholic monks met together to dialogue in what was billed the “Gethsemane Encounter.”22 David Steindl-Rast, a Zen-Buddhist trained monk and close friend of Thomas Merton, facilitated this event.
During the encounter, presentations on Zen meditation and practice from the Theravedan Buddhist tradition were offered.23 One of the speakers discussed the “correlation of the Christian contemplative life with the lives of our Buddhist sisters and brothers.”24
For these monks and the Baptist evangelist to be “a people,” as Richard Foster says, someone has to change. Either the monks have to abandon their Buddhist convictions and align with the Baptists, or the Baptists have to become contemplative style Baptists and embrace the monks’ beliefs. That is the dilemma in Foster’s “great gathering of God.”
Mystic David Steidl-Rast once asked Thomas Merton what role Buddhism played in his going deeper into the spiritual life. Merton replied quite frankly: “I think I couldn’t understand Christian teaching the way I do if it were not in the light of Buddhism.”25
Did Merton mean that in order to understand what Christianity really is, you have to change your consciousness? I believe that is exactly what he meant. Once he personally did that through contemplative prayer, Buddhism provided him with the explanation of what he experienced. But again the catalyst was changing his consciousness. This is what I am warning Christians about. Contemplative prayer is presenting a way to God identical with all the world’s mystical traditions. Christians are haplessly lulled into it by the emphasis on seeking the Kingdom of God and greater piety, yet the apostle Paul described the church’s end-times apostasy in the context of a mystical seduction. If this practice doesn’t fit that description, I don’t know what does.
You don’t have to change your consciousness to grab “aholt” of God (as Brennan Manning insists). All you need is to be born-again. What Steidl-Rast and the other Gethsemane monks should have been telling Buddhists is, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning mentions that once Baptist Sunday school teacher, now New Ager, Sue Monk Kidd eventually came under the mentorship of Dr. Beatrice Bruteau who authored the book What We Can Learn From the East. Since that title is self-explanatory, it’s easy to understand why Dr. Bruteau would write the preface to a book like The Mystic Heart by mystic Wayne Teasdale. In the preface, she touts that a universal spirituality based on mysticism is going to save the world.
It seems that all these people want a better world. They do not seem like sinister conspirators like those out of a James Bond film. Yet, it is their niceness that rejects the reality of the fundamental separation between Man and God. It is their sense of compassion that feeds their universalism. It is idealism that makes Manning so attractive and causes him to say that Dr. Bruteau is a “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness.”26
The irony of this is that Manning is completely correct in his statement—Dr. Bruteau is a reliable guide to contemplative awareness. She has founded two organizations, the Schola Contemplationis (school for contemplation) and the very Christian-sounding Fellowship of the Holy Trinity. With the latter, she is promoted as “a well-known author and lecturer on contemplative life and prayer.”27 Both of these organizations incorporate Hindu and Buddhist approaches to spirituality. This should come as no surprise because Bruteau also has studied with the Ramakrishna order, which is named after the famous Hindu swami Sri Ramakrishna.
The Ramakrishna order is dedicated to promoting the vision of Sri Ramakrishna. He was known for his view that all the world’s religions were valid revelations from God if you understood them on the mystical level. He was an early proponent of interspirituality. According to the book, Wounded Prophet, Henri Nouwen even viewed him in a favorable light and esteemed him as an important spiritual figure.
Sue Monk Kidd became enamored with contemplative spirituality while attending a Southern Baptist church. We could possibly dismiss that and say she was just an untaught member of the laity who was spiritually lacking in discernment. Maybe her spiritual dryness was a result of her not being grounded firmly enough in the faith. But what about the leaders and pastors whom so many look up to and who are considered trusted individuals in the church? Surely they are able to discern what is spiritually unsound. It seems safe to make this assumption. Right? Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.