Archive for the ‘Contemplative Practices’ Category
By Lois Putnam
On a recent Sunday morning a vivacious older lady stood in front of a congregation, of what can only be termed a solid gospel preaching, mission minded church, and announced to the women that all should sign up for its newest Bible study program that would begin shortly. Touting both Set Apart, and Living a Praying Life she stated that the author –Jennifer Kennedy Dean–was also part of the National Day of Prayer.
At my seat –I was writing down the information–for I knew my immediate assignment as a discerning Christian was, as Acts 17:11 instructs, to look into Dean to see if all she’s taught and written stands up to scripture. In short, “Should one glean or be learning from this writer Jennifer Kennedy Dean?”
So that very afternoon I began my investigation. And it wasn’t long into my research that I found “red flags flying!” So what was it that made me know that Dean, and her numerous books were something that I should not be buying into, nor following? Let me explain!
Dean’s “The Praying Life Foundation” Web Page
I. Dean’s All About “Listening Prayer” Article
Checking out Dean’s web page: “The Praying Life Foundation”–her bio, blog, articles, store, and more– soon gave me pause. For under Dean’s store was a section titled “Free.” Clicking onto that I found many Dean articles. Immediately, my eye caught the title: “Listening Prayer.” Knowing that this was a meditative practice that uses a mantra or repetitive phrase to clear one’s mind so one can “hear God’s voice” as one sits in silence I read the five pages carefully.
http://www.prayinglife.org/free/ Scroll down to find article.
Did Dean support this unscriptural prayer method? Indeed, Dean did! For Dean began her article by saying, “Spoken prayer will not reach its potential unless it is grounded in listening prayer. In listening prayer spoken prayer is born.” And Dean champions going into “the silence”* when she says of the Lord, “He wants us to know his secrets, but his secrets come wrapped in silence.” (p.1)
* The Silence: “Absence of normal thought.” (A Time of Departing: Glossary-p.205) Click here to continue reading.
(Lois Putnam is a Lighthouse Trails author with two booklets released thus far.)
Letter to the Editor: Please Add BiblicalTraining.Org to Colleges/Schools Promoting Spiritual Formation (Contemplative Prayer)
To Lighthouse Trails:
I have been studying Bill Mounce’s “Basics of Biblical Greek” textbook. It is an excellent course of study, but Mr. Mounce puts a plug for his website biblicaltraining.org. Though they are a Calvinist-based ministry, there are some good apologetic things and history things that I’ve looked at. I was shocked though when in their Foundations area (designed for new or young Christians) they have an entire course on Spiritual Formation. I thought it might just be a bad choice of words so I checked the syllabus. It turns out the instructor quotes Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and references the “Nine Sacred Pathways.” I have e-mailed Bill Mounce twice to see if he is aware of it (because he is the head of it, I believe) and have yet to receive a response. I included some links to Lighthouse Trails articles on Richard Foster and Spiritual Formation. Pending Mr. Mounce’s response, is there any way you could see if Lighthouse Trails could add the BiblicalTraining.org website to its list of schools that teach contemplative practices and spiritual formation? It concerns me because of the influence that Mr. Mounce has. He was on the NIV committee and the ESV committee, and I believe his Greek grammar is one of the most used in the country in seminaries. The website does not have an e-mail that I’ve found to reach the teacher who is teaching it directly. His name is Gary Thomas. He apparently wrote a book called, Sacred Pathways: Discover your soul’s path to God. I honestly can’t tell if he really understands what the terms “spiritual formation,” “spiritual disciplines,” and so forth really mean. In Lecture 8: Spiritual Formation: Three Pathways to Grow Part 2, time marker 32:41, he makes a plug for Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, and Dallas Willard’s book also, and also a Donald Whitney (who I’m not familiar with).
Thank you for your e-mail. It seems that we do need to add the school to our list of schools that promote contemplative prayer, ie.,spiritual formation. We are very familiar with Gary Thomas and had correspondence with him several years ago. He very much understands the term spiritual formation, and he is a strong advocate of contemplative prayer. We would say that the school is in big trouble. We would like to post your e-mail to give a heads up to our readers, but we will refrain until you give us permission. We don’t want to hurt any of your efforts. But from our experience, it is most likely Bill Mounce is fully aware of what is going on there at that school.
(Lighthouse Trails did receive permission to post this e-mail; we have also added Biblical Training to our list of Christian colleges and seminaries that promote/teach Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality.)
NEW BOOKLET: Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next
NEW BOOKLET: Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next by Gregory Reid is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 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 Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next
By Gregory Reid
Deception—A Progressive Disease
The church has opened the door to the New Age. What started out as just a crack has now become a wide open door. In just a few short decades, the walls of biblical discernment have been so completely torn down that not only do the majority of church goers seem completely oblivious to the deception that has entered, many of the church’s leaders are actually promoting the various avenues through which the New Age/New Spirituality has come in. This is exactly what Theosophist leader Alice Bailey predicted would be part of the New Age infiltration into the church:
The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination [New Age thought] may be accomplished.1
This paradigm shift has been underway for some time. It probably began to get a real foothold in our present time with Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” theology, quickly adapted by Rev. Robert Schuller who was really the first modern “megachurch” and “seeker friendly” church pastor. The ideas of these two men were once considered an aberration from mainstream Christian doctrine. But here we are decades later, and seeker friendly and power of positive thinking has become the norm and goes unchallenged. The crack into Bible-based evangelical churches had begun to open just a little . . .
Fast forward: In the last three decades, we have opened our doors to things like the holy laughter movement, barking like dogs and oinking like pigs (calling it the “anoinking of the Spirit”), and worse. A number of leaders challenged these things, but its promoters did not repent.
Eventually came spiritual formation, “be still” meditation, breathing techniques, “Christian” Yoga, “the sacred feminine,” labyrinths, and most recently circle making—all an extension of exotic and pagan religions, eastern mysticism, and Buddhist/Hindu tools to reach “the divine within.” These began to creep into church media, books, music, sermons, seminars, and movies. Even Catholic priest and mystic Thomas Merton came to be revered by many evangelicals though he was a man who once said he intended “to become as good a Buddhist as [he] can;”2 and the writings of the late Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen continue influencing millions of evangelicals, even though his spirituality led him to deny that Jesus was the only way to the Father by the end of life.3
The door opened a little wider . . . where were the watchmen? Where were the shepherds? Even pastors were welcoming these things. And as these heretical movements crept in, the Word of God began to become an addendum to our lives, a devotional nicety but not central in our walk with Jesus, and no longer our final determination of truth.
Slowly, the poison seeped into our ranks . . . one book, one DVD, one conference, one movie at a time. Everyone ignored the subtle twisting of the Word of God in Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, hailing it as “groundbreaking.” And indeed, it was, but not in a good way. His next book, The Sex God raised a few eyebrows, but youth pastors everywhere still adored him, emulated him, and bought glasses and cool clothes to look just like him in an attempt to “relate to youth.” Millennial youth pastors began diluting (or just plain dismissing) the Word of God and preparing little mini-messages to justify their increasingly party-like youth-group atmosphere which was strong on entertainment and weak on the Word of God.
Then Rob Bell wrote Love Wins, denying Hell and proclaiming universalism—the idea that everyone gets saved. Today, he is sharing platforms with Oprah Winfrey and with New Age guru Deepak Chopra at conferences with titles like “The Seduction of Spirit.”4 Some seducing is going on, that’s for sure!
When Bell was finally exposed as being truly a non-evangelical false teacher, I heard nothing but cricket sounds from all those who formerly sang his praises. But by then, everyone was off chasing the next big thing anyway, the next bestseller, the next circle-making, ear-tickling, Scripture-diluting fiasco. We had formed a pattern of going after the latest “it,” or hottest speaker, or bestselling book, and then when it turned out the thing or person was exposed as fraudulent, in error, or full of deception, almost no one took responsibility for originally supporting or promoting them in the first place—least of all the Christian media and those who peddled their products.
I could give countless examples where Christian leaders and pastors promoted someone who was espousing anti-biblical views, and then later when the wrongness became publicized, these same Christian leaders and pastors did nothing to rectify the damage they did in pointing thousands, if not millions, in the wrong direction. No words of regret, no humility, no warnings to what they should have seen in the first place—just silence . . . until the next big thing came along.
Rarely do people say, “we were wrong.” Rarely do leaders say, “We were in error.” And because of that, unrepentant error in discernment has led to greater and greater error, because deception is a progressive disease.
The more error we receive and engage in, the more the ability to discern goes numb and then finally dies altogether. The church has stepped through the door of deception, and now one step at a time, the descent down the stairway to spiritual destruction is underway.
Few seemed alarmed that Roma Downey had no sooner graduated from a New Age college when she began work on her and her husband’s television series The Bible or that she has never renounced her New Age beliefs.5 And in fact, the highest levels of leadership in the church gave her a pass on those issues because, they said, the benefits of how it would reach people outweighed the theological or doctrinal problems. Downey’s movies have been sprinkled with gnostic teachings; and, to be honest, by the time these concerns were raised, certain denominations and groups had invested far too much money in promoting the movies to retract, recall product, and publicly repent at that point. In the end, I believe financial concerns were more important than truth.
The Shack—A Temporary Fix
By the time the book The Shack came around, we had already been prepped through years of “felt need” theology, experiential-based faith, and cherry-picking Scriptures we liked while ignoring the ones we didn’t.
As the Internet grew, I began to understand the power of the appeal to our emotions. More than once, I had seen almost an entire five to ten-minute video on some issue and found myself in tears before I found out at the end that not only was it not a Christian video and did not have a Christian message, but it was produced by people who represented a view that was unbiblical, New Age, and worse. I got emotionally hooked before I learned the truth. Those without a biblical foundation of truth stay hooked. Basically, they get seduced. They have become addicted to being seduced and need the next sensually induced, carnally-inspired fix because that is what has become the foundation of their “faith,” and they have come to believe they can’t get by without it.
People loved The Shack because it replaced the God of the Bible (which deep down they possibly didn’t feel comfortable with because His ways are beyond our understanding and bad things happen, and it upsets our sunshine version of Christianity) and gave them a God who made them feel good, who took the God of the Bible and said, “That’s not really God, this is what God is like . . .” and gave them a diluted, false version of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and a dose of Sophia, Greek goddess of “wisdom.”
I was sure that anyone with even a modicum of discernment would throw the book in the trash. I had underestimated how wide the door of deception had opened. I lost friends that were pastors who were furious at me for questioning the book. One pastor railed at me, “I haven’t had a relationship with God for years, but now I have my ‘Papa’ back! You can’t take that from me!”
Nothing jarred me more than seeing grown men of God just abandoning clear truth because something tugged their heart, justifying the scriptural butchering by saying, “It’s just fiction; it’s not the Bible!” I confronted someone on this the other night. “What about the satanic Necronomicon. Can I read it? It’s just fiction. Can I read pornography? It’s just fiction.” They thought that a bit extreme. Of course it was. My point was, what was their criteria, where was their own event horizon they were not willing to cross because it was just too obviously wrong? How much Scripture bending or ignoring would they accept and justify as OK because it was “just fiction” before they had enough and said no more?
The genius of The Shack is how cleverly it has clothed itself in a loose and nebulous garment of Scriptures—just enough to justify the complete butchering of the true nature of God and morph Him into a Trinitarian hybrid god that represents whatever will make you feel better about your horrible tragedies and “great sadness.”6 The fact is, though, God will not appear as whatever we want. One person said, “God appeared as a fiery bush, but I know he’s not a bush!” But He did not appear as a bush. He appeared in a bush. God will not appear as Shiva, Buddha, or Sarayu, because He says, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). We can say God is like a rock, but we cannot say God is like Baal. It’s not about imagery; it is about the nature and character of God. And The Shack gives a false representation of both of these.7
Look, I get it. I’ve suffered innumerable losses my entire life, and every one of us at some point cries out, “WHY, GOD?” And in those moments, people either reject Him as uncaring, or call upon His name wherein He brings us into His Kingdom, and we learn to trust Him in the midst of, sometimes in spite of, tragedies that seem to have no reason.
We may find ourselves once again crying out in pain, “Why God!?”
He has answered this in His Word. It’s called having faith, trusting Him, and knowing He loves us.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. (Psalm 18:30)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. (1 John 3:1)
The Shack is a quick fix to feeling better, a panacea, a spiritual drug that allows you to embrace a conception of God that may temporarily take away the pain but leaves you with an open door to deception because it is not the God of the Word. It is not the real thing! And the Jesus it presents is not the real Jesus.
Is The Shack the God portrayed in Scripture? Is God a woman? Is Jesus a clumsy Jewish kid? Is the Holy Spirit a Japanese girl named after a Hindu river? Is the judge of our lives Sophia? Is everyone saved? Is Jesus just the best way to the Father, as the book suggests, or is He what the Bible says—the only way?
“But they’re just parables! Stories! It’s not the Bible!” some argue. So is it acceptable to distort the truth in the guise of fiction just to make a point? How is that ever acceptable? The Shack presents a God who does not judge, one who can change, and one who suggests Jesus is simply a better way to God, not the only way. But feeling has trumped truth, and the book has become a multi-million bestseller. To simplify the responses I have heard, “Don’t confuse me with biblical facts. It makes me feel good!”
It did not bother leaders and publishers that Young’s second book, Eve—a “reimagining” of the Adam and Eve story—was laced with kabbalistic themes and occultic, gnostic fairy tales. “It’s just a story.” The door opened wider. . . .
You see, Satan keeps pushing the goalpost deeper and deeper into the center of the church, and every time he sees no resistance, he is emboldened and takes it to “the next level.”
In March of 2017, The Shack movie was released. People seem just as fascinated with the movie as they are with the book. But I notice one difference—those who support The Shack appear to be much angrier at those with questions than before. “You’re so judgmental!” “Who do you think you are?” “You must be looking for a book deal or something.” “You’ll never lead anyone to Christ, and I doubt if you ever did before.” I’ve had it all thrown at me with the release of the movie as I have tried to reason it out with folks. And I have come to realize that the level of deception has gone so deep that not only are people willing to embrace a lie and ignore the error, but worse—they see themselves as loyal Christian believers while at the same have no problem promoting a story by a man who claims that everyone is “in Christ” already. And you cannot reason with that level of delusion. It’s gone beyond the intellectual. It’s now in the realm of “seducing spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1).
A Church Enamored with New Age Mysticism
Universalism—the “all paths lead to God” religion—is exactly what is needed to turn millions of proclaiming Christians into participants of the one-world antichrist mystery religion that Alice Bailey wrote about and all Luciferian world leaders are counting on.
We did not accept Rob Bell’s universalism. But now we are willing to ignore William Paul Young’s. That is the malignancy of deception unchecked.
The Shack movie comes at a time when eastern meditation techniques are being welcomed wholeheartedly into the public educational system under the guise of “mindfulness.”8 Mindfulness is a Buddhist technique of detachment, leading practitioners to realizing the “divine within,” which eventually supposedly leads to Nirvana—nonexistence. North American children, as young as pre-school age, are being taught how to meditate and do Yoga to reach this Nirvana state.
This eastern meditation paradigm shift is occurring in the church as well via contemplative prayer and the “spiritual disciplines.”9 In 2017, several “Christian” books came on the scene promoting meditation and mindfulness practices under the guise of “devotional” books and “adult coloring books.” One book on contemplative meditation is The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age by Tricia McCary Rhodes. Her book “reintroduces us to the classic disciplines of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.”10 Rick Warren was promoting Rhodes book, The Soul at Rest: A Journey into Contemplative Prayer, as far back as 2003 on his website that stated:
This book is a quiet-time companion for those who hunger for a greater intimacy with God. It offers fresh insight into little understood aspects of prayer and introduces a step-by-step journey of learning contemplative prayer.11
The site referred to Tricia Rhodes as “one of our favorite authors on contemplative prayer.”12 In The Soul at Rest, Rhodes gives instruction on contemplative prayer:
Take deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing your body. Establish a slow, rhythmic pattern. Breathe in God’s peace, and breathe out your stresses, distractions, and fears. Breathe in God’s love, forgiveness, and compassion, and breathe out your sins, failures, and frustrations. Make every effort to “stop the flow of talking going on within you—to slow it down until it comes to a halt.”13
Rick Warren’s promotion of her book in 2003 helped to make a solid place for Rhodes in the evangelical church, and today she, along with so many others like her, is securely wedged in, all the while presenting a panentheistic (i.e., God in all) eastern-style meditation belief system to an unsuspecting church that’s proved itself to have little or no discernment. Does that bother Rick Warren or any of the others who endorsed her? Do they feel the need to warn the church about an author they promoted to millions of people? The answer to that is a resounding no!
So, the church just keeps on going further on the path to the New Age goal of “east meets west,” where we all become one under a false one-world religion and we all recognize the “Christ spirit” or godhood in each other.
Tragically, young Christians are perhaps the biggest target of Satan. The emerging church got the ball rolling and convinced millions of church-going young people that their parents way of seeing Christianity was old fashioned, colonial, and ineffective. And emerging church leaders had the perfect tool to get a hold of the minds of the youth—meditation. It started back in the late nineties and is in full swing today. A 2013 book titled, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Canadian pastor Ken Shigematsu, is being used in Christian youth groups. According to the publisher, Zondervan, the book “draws on both eastern and western perspectives in writing and speaking.”14 Those are buzzwords for introducing a mixing of eastern religion thought processes with Christianity. The book is packed with quotes by and references to numerous mystics such as Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington. Catholic priest and panentheist Richard Rohr is a major advocate for mystical prayer. He said in an interview that his publisher told him his biggest audience is young evangelical men!15 Are Christian leaders and pastors shocked that their young people are being taught by mystics, panentheists, universalists, etc? Apparently not.
All of this is producing Christian minds that are malleable, soft, undiscerning, half-drugged, feeling good, and completely open to the power of suggestion from . . . whoever, and whatever. That is what eastern meditation techniques do. You empty your mind, “turn off distractions,” enter your “sacred space,” and accept that whatever comes must be good and right and from God.
The High Price of Having Our Ears Tickled
The church has become an entity seeking to have her ears tickled. Christians are seeking to feel better about their painful lives. Seeking to be successful, happy, and prosperous. What is it you seek? Step right up folks . . . we’ve got everything for you right now.
Everything except the whole truth of the Word of God, the way of the Cross, the power of the blood to save and heal and forgive, the altar of God where we come to be broken and changed, healed, and set free. Everything which made the Gospel powerful has and is being systematically removed by the enemy of our souls—not because it is not powerful, but because we no longer wish to humble ourselves, bow to its holiness and its truth. The church has exchanged the truth for a lie.
We are seeing the “fruit” of nearly thirty years of dumbing-down and de-prioritizing the Word of God, giving it a mini-place in our lives while shiny things and baubles and the newest “move” catch our attention and send us off on a fruitless quest for the next experience. It’s no wonder young Christians are falling for it so rapidly—their parents and grandparents have had no discernment and therefore could hardly lead and warn the younger generation of spiritual deception. The seed of the Word of God has corporately fallen on stony ground, without depth, where it grows up quick, shrivels, and dies.
I know I am very passionate about this, reluctant to even use the word passionate, so overused it is in today’s “New Spirituality.” However, I have every reason to be this way. I grew up in the occult—a world of delusions, lies, and darkness. When I tried to turn to New Age thought to dispel the darkness—turning to Hinduism, Buddhism, and becoming an avid follower of Paramahansa Yogananda in my little bedroom devouring his every word as “truth”—I ended up deceived, wrecked, and in utter darkness, even though some of it temporarily numbed my pain and made me “feel good.”
I understand many of these Christians who are so emotionally bound to The Shack and Jesus Calling that they have thrown caution to the wind and ignored the dangerous reality that in fact promotes unbiblical lies. I was a universalist when I got saved. I didn’t know what the Word of God said. I still believed all paths led to God! I was totally brainwashed. Then came this “mean man,” this “judgmental Christian” Bible study leader who dared to get out the Word of God and without holding back challenged me about my beliefs. This “judgmental, mean man” saved my spiritual life. (I thank God for Dave; may his memory be blessed!) I needed a hard word to break through the lies.
In all my dealings with everything from Rob Bell to The Shack, I understand that simple logic and reason isn’t working with people who are emotionally invested in the teachers or the stories. People need a wake-up call, and that may not feel good or seem loving. But I cannot apologize for my approach because I see that in the end, The Shack is not just a book or a movie but a game-changer that is extinguishing some of the last lights of discernment out of the hearts of who knows how many thousands (even millions) of believers. I know how they feel. I have been there. And I thank God that someone cared enough to hurt me with the truth. When a house is burning down and people are asleep inside, one cannot afford to meekly whisper, hoping the people hear. You have to shout at the top of your lungs, “Get out, quickly!” In dealing with these new delusions, it may be necessary to jar people awake.
Jesus said in Matthew 24 that all of this would happen. Paul said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). The great falling away is at hand. But a remnant will remain faithful. I can only pray humbly not to be one who falls for the lies in a moment of vulnerability, or weakness, or pain or giving up, for we are all vulnerable, and it’s only by the grace of God we can stand. That is where I understand the motto of the French foreign legion that a friend shared with me: “If I falter, straighten me out. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.” Blunt, but as a spiritual warrior, it resonates in my heart. None of us is exempt from having to diligently guard against the lies of this age, outside and inside the church.
These progressive deceptions over the last few decades have been just the build-up to the next great delusion, which could be the final one. God help us to turn away from the slow poisoning taking place in the church through breath-prayers, eastern meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, etc. God help us to surrender our soulish ways of perceiving God based on a book written by a wounded man, William Paul Young —unhealed from abuse and bitter church hurts—whom those seeking to make a profit have promoted regardless of his spiritual fragility and woundedness—a man who rejected the God of the Bible for a god who would somehow ease his pain—one that eases your pain as it kills your soul. The Shack is the spiritual Jack Kevorkian of our age.
Pray for William Paul Young, that God would pull him out of this most dangerous and deadly strange fire. Pray for the multitudes who are believing lies. And may God deal with those mercenaries and moneychangers who care more about what sells and profits them than about the care and protection of the flock of God.
Alice Bailey’s plans are about to come to full fruition. The greatest lie is just around the corner.
Stay strong, saints. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)
To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
1. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (Lucis Publishing Companies), p. 510.
2. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
3.Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
5. See Greg Reid’s booklet/article: Confused by an Angel: The Dilemma of Roma Downey’s New Age Beliefs. Online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16968 or order from Lighthouse Trails.
6. Chapter four of The Shack is titled “The Great Sadness,” and the term is frequently used throughout The Shack.
7. See The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Warren B. Smith. Online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290 or order from Lighthouse Trails.
8. Kris O’Donnell, “Mindfulness, Meditation Techniques Being Used in Public School Classrooms Across County on 750,000 Students” (Ivanhoe Newswire, http://www.ksat.com/health/mindfulness-meditation-techniques-being-used-in-classroom).
9. Visit the Lighthouse Trails Research blog for extensive information on contemplative spirituality and the “spiritual disciplines”: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog or request their bi-monthly research journal mailed to homes and offices.
10. Tricia McCary Rhodes, The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age (from the publisher’s description, found on the NavPress website where the book is being sold: https://navresources.ca/product_details.php?item_id=5458).
11. Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, (September 3, 2003, http://web.archive.org/web/20081227031846/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=118).
12. Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox (February 18, 2004, http://web.archive.org/web/20081227044251/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=142).
13. Tricia Rhodes, The Soul at Rest (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p. 28.
14. Ken Shigematsu, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013); from Zondervan’s website: http://www.zondervan.com/god-in-my-everything.
15. “The Cosmic Christ with Richard Rohr” (http://podcast.theliturgists.com/e/episode-35-the-cosmic-christ-with-richard-rohr/).
To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
Mantra-style meditation is actually divination, where practitioners perform rituals or meditation exercises in order to go into trances and then receive information from spiritual entities. Campolo elaborates on the fruit of mysticism, an atmosphere he calls “the thin place”:
The constant repetition of his name clears my head of everything but the awareness of his presence. By driving back all other concerns, I am able to create what the ancient Celtic Christians called “the thin place.” The thin place is that spiritual condition wherein the separation between the self and God becomes so thin that God is able to break through and envelop the soul.1
This term “thin place” originated with Celtic spirituality (i.e., contemplative) and is in line with panentheism. Listen to one meditator:
I experienced a shift deep within me, a calmness I never knew possible. I was also graced with a sense of “oneness” with nature around me and with everyone else in the human family. It was strangely wonderful to experience God in silence, no-thingness.2
This “oneness” with all things is the essence of the ancient wisdom. Marcus Borg, a former professor at Oregon State University and a pro-emergent author, also speaks of “thin places.” One commentator discusses Borg’s ideas on this:
In The Heart of Christianity, Borg writes of “thin places,” places where, to use Eliade’s terminology, the division between the sacred and the profane becomes thin. Borg writes that he owes this metaphor of “thin places” to Celtic Christianity and the recent recovery of Celtic spirituality. As the following passage reveals, his understanding of “thin places” is deeply connected to his panentheism, his articulation of God as “the More,” and his—like Eliade—division of the world into layers of reality.3
Borg says these thin places (reached through meditation) are “[d]eeply rooted in the Bible and the Christian tradition,”4 but he, like others, is unable to show biblical evidence that God mandates meditation. Thin places imply that God is in all things, and the gap between God, evil, man, everything thins out and ultimately disappears in meditation:
God is a nonmaterial layer of reality all around us, “right here” as well as “more than right here.” This way of thinking thus affirms that there are minimally two layers or dimensions of reality, the visible world of our ordinary experience and God, the sacred, Spirit.5
Mike Perschon, former writer for Youth Specialties, also found these thin places as he went into the silence:
We held “thin place” services in reference to a belief that in prayer, the veil between us and God becomes thinner. Entire nights were devoted to guided meditations, drum circles, and “soul labs.”6
I believe that Campolo, Borg, and Perschon each experienced the same realm in their thin places.
(This is an excerpt from Roger Oakland’s book on the emerging church, Faith Undone.)
1. Tony Campolo, Letters to a Young Evangelical (New York, NY: Perseus Books Group (Basic Books), 2006), p. 26.
2. Carol and Rick Weber, “Journeying Together” (Thin Places, April/May 2007, Year Eight, Issue Four, Number 46), p. 1.
3. Chris Baker, “A Positive Articulation of Marcus Borg’s Theology” (Sandlestraps Sanctuary blog, April 5, 2007, http://sandalstraps.blog spot.com/2007/04/positive-articulation-of-marcus-borgs_05.html.
4. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 2004), p. 155.
6. Mike Perschon, “Desert Youth Worker: Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life,” (Youth Specialties, http://www.youth specialties.com /articles/topics/spirituality/desert.php).
An Appendix on the Al Mohler Situation: “The Contemplative Christian (The Christian of the Future?)”
LTRP Note: In view of our recent post on Albert Mohler who promoted the book The Benedictine Option (a book that encourages contemplative prayer practices), we are posting this article by Ray Yungen from his book A Time of Departing so readers who are unfamiliar with the contemplative prayer movement can gain better understanding.
By Ray Yungen
Within the evangelical world, contemplative prayer is increasingly being promoted and accepted. As a result, it is losing its esoteric aspect and is now seen by many as the wave of the future. One can’t help but notice the positive exposure it is getting in the Christian media these days. In Today’s Christian Woman, a popular and trusted Christian magazine, feature titles make the appeal to draw closer to God. The author of one such article says, “Like a growing number of evangelicals, I’ve turned to spiritual direction because I want to know God better.”1 But without exception, every person she cites is a dedicated contemplative, one being Ruth Haley Barton, author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence. Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute (founded by panentheist Tilden Edwards); and in fact, that organization was featured in the article as a resource for the reader. However, considering the content of many statements on the Shalem Institute website, how could Shalem even be listed as a resource for Christians? Listen to a few:
In Christianity and other traditions that understand God to be present everywhere, contemplation includes a reverence for the Divine Mystery, “finding God in all things,” or “being open to God’s presence, however it may appear.”2
[Thomas] Merton taught that there is only one way to develop this radical language of prayer: in silence.3
The rhythm of the group includes . . . chanting, two periods of sitting in silence separated by walking meditation, and a time for optional sharing.4
In another magazine article, Ruth Haley Barton, who incidentally is the former Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek Community Church, echoes Southern Baptist-turned-goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd in many ways, including the general malaise or condition of the human soul. Barton recounts:
A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers.5
The following scenario Barton relates could be the wave of the future for the evangelical church if this movement continues to unfold in the manner it already has:
I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me . . . “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words.6
By “addiction to words,” she means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, “Here I am.” This is nothing other than the Cloud of Unknowing or the prayer of the heart.
Like Richard Foster, Barton argues that God cannot be reached adequately, if at all, without the silence. In referring to 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was hiding in a cave, Barton encourages:
God loves us enough to wait for us to come openly to Him. Elijah’s experience shows that God doesn’t scream to get our attention. Instead, we learn that our willingness to listen in silence opens up a quiet space in which we can hear His voice, a voice that longs to speak and offer us guidance for our next step.7
What Barton fails to mention here is that Elijah was a valiant defender of the belief in the one, unique God—Yahweh (as seen in his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal), and he never went into an altered state of silence in his personal encounter with God.
Barton is no longer teaching at Willow Creek. She left there to start the Transforming Center and now teaches pastors and other Christian leaders spiritual formation. Hers is just one of many avenues through which contemplative prayer is creating a new kind of Christian, possibly the Christian of the future.
1. Agnieszka Tennant, “Drawing Closer to God”(Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 2004, Vol. 26, No. 5), p. 14. Published by Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, Illinois.
2. Shalem Institute, “What Does Contemplative Mean?” (Shalem Institute About Shalem page, http://web.archive.org/web/20050204190729/http://shalem.org/about.html#contemplative).
3. Ann Kline, “A New Language of Prayer” (Shalem Institute newsletter, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2005, http://web.archive.org/web/20060930230219/http://www.shalem.org/publication/newsletter/archives/2005/2005_winter/article_04).
4. Shalem Institute website, General Events, “Radical Prayer: A Simple Loving Presence Group” (http://www.shalem.org/programs/generalprograms/groupsevents_folder; no longer online—on file at LT).
5. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words, Issue #113, September/October, 1999, http://web.archive.org/web/20060628075740/http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.113.13.html), p. 35.
7. Ibid., pp. 37-38.
Guest Post: Albert Mohler Gives Air Time to Author of “The Benedict Option” (A Monastic/Catholic Promoting Book)
LTRP Note: This is another example of a major Christian leader laying aside the integrity of biblical faith and giving credence to the Roman Catholicism and contemplative mysticism for the sake of “unity” and “morality.”
By Cathy Mickel
(Author of Spiritual Junk Food: The Dumbing Down of Christian Youth)
Where is the wisdom in Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, giving air time to Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option (a book highlighting the way of Saint Benedict, Catholic “saint” and founder of the monastic Benedictine order)? (Other evangelical leaders who support the book are Matt Chandler; https://twitter.com/villagechurchtx/status/839994280101961729, Russell Moore; http://www.russellmoore.com/2017/03/10/signposts-conversation-rod-dreher/, and John Piper; https://twitter.com/JohnPiper/status/839647675364622336 )
In the interview, Mohler says, “[T]he book is very important. I want to commend it to every thinking Christian. We ought to read this book and we ought also to read far beyond the title.” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/02/13/benedict-option-conversation-rod-dreher)
The following are a few quotes from what the author of The Benedict Option said to Albert Mohler in the interview.
[T]he West owes an incalculable debt to those Benedictine monks.
So this is nothing new. We’re just rediscovering an old tradition, things that our ancestors knew. And look, I think that whether we’re evangelical, Catholic, or Orthodox, we need to go back to the early church to see how our ancestors did it, see what they did, see how they embodied the faith and culture and practices [contemplative prayer].
. . . time for Christians to take seriously the times we’re in, to read the signs of the times and to respond in a responsible way, in a clear way, in a patient way. And I use Saint Benedict of Nursia [considered the “father of western monasticism”], the 6th century saint, who was a Christian who lived through the fall of the Roman Empire; he was born four years after the Empire officially fell. And he went down to Rome to get his education and saw it was completely corrupt, it was falling apart. He went out to the woods to pray; he lived in cave for three years, and asked God to show him what to do with his life. He ended up coming out and founding a monastic order. That monastic order he founded ended up over the next few centuries spreading like wildfire throughout Western Europe. And what they did was prepare the way for civilization to return to Western Europe. They tendered within those monasteries the Scriptures, the prayers, the liturgies, and the old ways of doing things. So they became a sort of ark that traveled over the dark sea of time until it found dry land, and there was light after the darkness.” [see John Caddock’s article “Brennan Manning’s “New Monks” & Their Dangerous Contemplative Monasticism”]
One of the stories I tell in the book is about going to the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, a small town in the mountains of central Italy, that was where say Benedict was born. He was a son of the Roman governor. Well, there’s still a monastery there today. Napoleon closed it down in 1810, but in the year 2000 some American monks went there and reopened it. And they wanted to sing the traditional Latin mass, and it’s become a real oasis of Christian peace and beauty. Well, it’s the sort of place where you go there up in the mountains, and you really envy these men, their peace, where they can worship and meet visitors.
[I]n my own case, my life is shaped around liturgy that’s been in our church for 1500 years. My life is shaped around the chanting of Psalms and on all kinds of sensual ways that embody the faith. Of course you can have smells and bells and go straight to hell, that doesn’t change you and lead to greater conversion. But for me as an Orthodox Christian and me as a Catholic, the faith had more traction and it drew me in closer and closer. (emphasis added)
Here is Amazon’s description of Benedict Option:
In a radical new vision for the future of Christianity, NYT bestselling author and conservative columnist Rod Dreher calls on American Christians to prepare for the coming Dark Age by embracing an ancient Christian way of life [contemplative prayer] . . .
In The Benedict Option, Dreher calls on traditional Christians to learn from the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, a sixth-century monk who turned from the chaos and decadence of the collapsing Roman Empire, and found a new way to live out the faith in community. For five difficult centuries, Benedict’s monks kept the faith alive through the Dark Ages, and prepared the way for the rebirth of civilization. What do ordinary 21st century Christians — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — have to learn from the teaching and example of this great spiritual father? That they must read the signs of the times, abandon hope for a political solution to our civilization’s problems, and turn their attention to creating resilient spiritual centers that can survive the coming storm. Whatever their Christian tradition, they must draw on the secrets of Benedictine wisdom to build up the local church, create countercultural schools based on the classical tradition, rebuild family life, thicken communal bonds, and develop survival strategies for doctors, teachers, and others on the front lines of persecution. . . .
Added section from Lighthouse Trails editors—Here are a few quotes from the book, The Benedict Option:
Imagine that you are at a Catholic mass in a dreary 1970s-era suburban church that looks like a converted Pizza Hut. The next Sunday you are at a high Catholic mass in New York City, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Scripture reading is the same in both places, and Jesus is just as present in the Eucharist at Our Lady of Pizza Hut as at St. Patrick’s. Chances are, though, that you had to work harder to conjure a sense of the true holiness of the mass in the suburban church than in the cathedral—though theologically speaking, the “information” conveyed in Word and Sacrament in both places was the same. This is the difference liturgy can make. (Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, pp. 106-107, Penguin Publishing Group; emphasis added)
I told the priest how, in response to a personal crisis, my own orthodox priest back in Louisiana had assigned me a strict daily prayer rule, praying the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) for about an hour each day. It was dull and difficult at first, but I did it out of obedience. Every day, for a seemingly endless hour, silent prayer. In time, though, the hour seemed much shorter, and I discovered that the peace I had conspicuously lacked in my soul came forth. (The Benedict Option, p. 59)
For the monks, prayer is not simply words they speak. Each monk spends several hours daily doing lectio divina, a Benedictine method of Scripture study that involves reading a Scripture passage, meditating on it, praying about it, and finally contemplating its meaning for the soul. (The Benedict Option, pp. 58-59)
The Reformation broke the religious unity [with Rome] of Europe. In Protestant lands, it birthed an unresolvable crisis in religious authority, which over the coming centuries would cause unending schisms. The Benedict Option, p. 45, emphasis added)
If you don’t control your own attention, there are plenty of people eager to do it for you. The first step in regaining cognitive control is creating a space of silence in which you can think. During a deep spiritual crisis in my own life, the toxic tide of chronic anxiety did not began to recede from my mind until my priest ordered me to take up a daily rule of contemplative prayer. Stilling my mind for an hour of prayer was incredibly difficult, but it eventually opened up a beachhead in which the Holy Spirit could work to calm the stormy waters within. (The Benedict Option, pp. 227-228, emphasis added)
In a 2017 Christianity Today article titled, “The Benedict Option’s Vision for a Christian Village” by Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option, Dreher says the following. Our deciphering is in brackets:
I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church, and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself [unify by removing the barriers between Protestantism and Catholicism], while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith [not biblical roots, monastic roots of the desert fathers and other mystics], both in thought and in deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart [contemplative prayer practices – Nouwen called it moving from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical] forgotten by believers in the West [that’s what Merton taught]. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs [the cost is going to be the death of biblical truth]. (source)
These remarks by Dreher are reminiscent of the contemplative pioneer and disciple of Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, when he said: “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.” (Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water, San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1998, p. 273) We need not look very far to know how such an ecumenical unifying will take place. The contemplative prayer movement is the vehicle, and it is in our midst waiting for the unaware and undiscerning to hop on for the ride.
One can only wonder, will there be any Christian leaders left standing when the battle is over? Remember the words of Jesus when He said,
[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I read the story behind Lighthouse Trails a couple of times, and it hit me that we are going to reach only a fraction of evangelical believers because the movement has progressed so much farther into Contemplative Spirituality (CS) than I had realized. I became aware of CS five years ago, so when I read that Ray Yungen wrote his book (which I am re-reading currently) in 2002, it occurred to me that the battle is nearly won by the forces of evil. Out of all the people I have tried to reach, only two have been receptive to my warning. Of course, your ministry can reach many more than any one individual. Jesus told us we would see this apostasy in the end.
I sent the link for your story of LHT to a friend, who said she had the very same reaction I had—that is, CS has infiltrated the Church more than she realized and that she felt it is too late. Neither she nor I will give up on trying to warn believers—if only a few have their eyes opened, we will have done what Jesus commands.
I do wish you would do some research on Pastor Brian Zahnd, my former pastor. His church went emergent, and he is deep into Contemplative Spirituality. He teaches seminars on Contemplative Prayer at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO. He is now taking his prayer school on the road. And like Roger Oakland says, he’s on the “road to Rome.” He is currently writing his sixth book. https://brianzahnd.com/books/
If you were to read his blog and his Twitter account, you’d see just how far he has gone into apostasy. https://twitter.com/BrianZahnd
He has said he is a friend of Eugene Peterson. He quotes Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and many other CS authors and “theologians” on Twitter. One tweet said: “The future of Christianity belongs to the Thomas Merton kind of Christian, not the heirs of Jerry Falwell.”
Recently he had a reply to one of his tweets from Ann Coulter, so he is not an unknown.
He has jettisoned the OT (though he says not, but then he says he’s not Emergent) and is against substitutionary atonement.
I sent my current pastor your booklet on Brennan Manning and got no response. So I guess I’ll be looking for a new church again.
May God bless you in your vital work.
Lighthouse Trails Comments: As Ruth has perceived, Brian Zahnd is a mystic. If you asked him if he was, he would proudly tell you yes. He’s not ashamed of it. His book Water to Wine tells of his mystical experiences and the outcome of those experiences. It’s in that book that Zahnd made the Merton/Falwell quote. Here is a little more of that quote:
The way forward is far less political and far more mystical. A generation ago the great Catholic theologian Karl Rahner famously predicted, “The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’, one who has ‘experienced’ something, or he will cease to be anything at all.” The future of Christianity belongs to the Thomas Merton kind of Christian, not the heirs of Jerry Falwell. This should be seen as a welcome change. It is only our false hopes that are being disappointed in the death of Christendom. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 1606-1610). Spello Press. Kindle Edition)
During the course of our author Ray Yungen’s adult life, he studied the New Age, occultism, and mysticism, their connection to each other, and their influence in the world and in the church. He frequently mentioned Karl Rahner’s quote that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. That is how the mystics view their belief that a Christian must engage in mystical practices if he really wants to be spiritual. They believe these practices will produce esoteric experiences that if practiced by enough of mankind, the earth and the world can be saved. They believe that real love and a change of heart can only come from these experiences. The mystics believe that this mystical transformation can happen to anyone, of any belief, of any religion, or of no religion at all. That’s because it isn’t about Jesus Christ (though they may say they like him) and man realizing he is a sinner in great need of a Savior. It can’t be about that—that would take away from the mystic’s belief that divinity dwells in all people and in all things. Though a bit obscure in the following quote by Zahnd, he puts it this way:
Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 1897-1900). Spello Press. Kindle Edition, emphasis added)
As Ray Yungen often pointed out, the “fruit” of contemplative prayer (which Zahnd refers to over 40 times in the book) is interspirituality (all paths lead to God) and panentheism (God in all). Zahnd explains in his book that when he moved from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical, he became interspiritual:
When I was converted from sectarian to eclectic [mystical], I obtained a passport that allowed me to travel freely throughout the whole body of Christ. In my theological travels I have discovered a Christianity that has both historical depth and ecumenical width. Now I can’t imagine not being able to access all the great contributors to contemporary Christian thought. Orthodox thinkers like Kallistos Ware and David Bentley Hart. Catholic thinkers like Richard Rohr and William Cavanaugh. Anglican thinkers like Rowen Williams and N.T. Wright. Mainline thinkers like Walter Brueggemann and Eugene Peterson. Without them my Christianity would be horribly impoverished. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 459-463). Spello Press. Kindle Edition)
Water to Wine is filled with interspiritual statements like the one above. Using words such as “tribalism,” he says we must get rid of this notion that traditional (biblical) Christianity is more true or right than other religious traditions. Just prior to the statement above, Zahnd quoted Thomas Merton saying:
If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russian with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians… If we want to bring together what is divided, we cannot do so by imposing one division [doctrine] upon the other. If we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all the divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ. (Kindle Locations 454-459, quoting Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Colorado Springs, CO: Image Books, 1968, 14).
You may recall when Thomas Merton spoke via letter with a Sufi master (an Islamic mystic) and told him that doctrinal differences needed to be laid aside, and we must turn to esoteric experiences as a common ground for unity and fellowship between all . He actually used the Cross as an example of one of those doctrines that had to be laid aside. (Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism, Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999, p. 109)
While Zahnd’s book is filled with examples of his “new life” as a mystic, we’d like to bring out just one more point about Zahnd because it reveals some insight that affects a huge percentage of today’s Christian culture, and it is the person who initially pointed the way for Zahnd to become a mystic. You will know the name. Most likely, your own pastor has read at least one of his books. Read what Zahnd has to say:
On a summer afternoon I was at home browsing my bookshelves. I was deliberately looking for a book that would “give me a breakthrough.” I couldn’t settle on anything. So I prayed, “God, show me what to read.” And I sensed…nothing. I went downstairs feeling a bit agitated and slumped into a chair. Within a minute or two my wife, Peri, walked into the room, handed me a book and said, “I think you should read this.” She knew nothing of my moments ago prayer, but she had just handed me a book, and told me to read it. This was my Augustine-like “take and read” moment. It sent chills down my spine. Somehow I knew it was the answer to my prayer. The book was Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. The strange thing was Peri had not read this book and had no more idea who Dallas Willard was than I did. (As I said, I was embarrassingly ignorant of the good stuff.) Neither of us were sure how the book had even made its way into our house. But, oh my, was it ever an answer to prayer! The next day I was flying somewhere and I took out the book providentially given to me by an angel. I began to read. And my life changed forever. Hyperbole? No. Stone cold fact. Reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy was like having a door kicked open in my mind. It opened my eyes to the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God is, well, everything! In his foreword to The Divine Conspiracy, Richard Foster writes: “The Divine Conspiracy is the book I have been searching for all my life. Like Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, it is a masterpiece and a wonder… I would place The Divine Conspiracy in rare company indeed: along-side the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Wesley, John Calvin and Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen, and perhaps even Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo. If the parousia tarries, this is a book for the next millennium.” That’s exactly what I needed! Augustine and Aquinas for the twenty-first century! Dallas Willard was my gateway to the good stuff. Directly or indirectly reading Willard led me to others: N.T. Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Eugene Peterson, Frederick Buechner, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, René Girard, Miroslav Volf, Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, David Bentley Hart, Wendell Berry, Scot McKnight, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and so many more. (Kindle Locations 116-133)
Sadly, the spirituality that Brian Zahnd found in those authors cannot save souls and does not point to the Cross of redemption through Jesus Christ. Like so many mystics before him, Zahnd has discarded the idea that Christianity is dualistic in that it is separate from all other belief systems (and that there is a right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, etc), and the doctrines that the mystics so readily dismiss are the very framework of our Christian faith. Within those rejected doctrines is the doctrine of the Cross that says man is not divine and he desperately needs a Savior who is just one Person, Jesus Christ who died a violent death on behalf of mankind. He took our place. To reject dualism (two sides) is to reject the Cross. The contemplative emergent Episcopal bishope Alan Jones illustrated this in his book Reimagining Christianity. In Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, Oakland states:
[Alan] 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.”
“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.” (Faith Undone, Lighthouse Trails, 2007, p. 193, quoting Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, 200, pp. 132, 168)
Jones calls the doctrine of the Cross a “vile doctrine,” similar to Brian McLaren who said the doctrine of the Cross and Hell are “false advertising” for God.* Brennan Manning did the same thing when he said that the God who exacted the last drop of his blood to appease His anger for our sins does not exist. (Above All, Manning, p. 58) Brian Zahnd says it this way:
Over time I began to see the cross in a much deeper way—not as a mere factor in an atonement theory equation, but as the moment in time and space where God reclaimed creation. I saw the cross as the place where Jesus refounded the world. Instead of being organized around an axis of power enforced by violence, at the cross the world was refounded around an axis of love expressed in forgiveness. (Water To Wine, Kindle Locations 305-308, emphasis added)
It’s a perfect ploy of Satan to get people to stop believing in that atonement. Remember, our adversary hates the atonement. And once a person begins down that road of mystical experiences, entering esoteric realms (really demonic realms), Satan will even allow that mystic to think he has become a fully evolved enlightened person who loves everyone and everything. All the while that person, who is being seduced by familiar spirits, is moving further and further away from the only path God has provided for salvation. And he will share this “mystical revolution” with as many people as he can. This is what happened with all the “great” mystics, and tragically, it appears to have happened to Brian Zahnd and who knows how many other evangelical pastors.
* 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://bleeding purple pod cast. blog spot.com/2006/01/interview-with-brian-mclaren-part-ii.html).