Archive for the ‘Book/Film Reviews’ Category

Letter to the Editor: Concerns About Meditation/Visualization Language in Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan “Bible Study”

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I am a member of a Baptist church affiliated with the SBC. My Sunday School class recently began the Not a Fan video Bible study, being supplemented by the Not a Fan journal  [this link is to a sample of the journal] by Kyle Idleman. I was familiar with the book of the same title and the concept (are you a fan or a follower?) but knew little else. I went into the study with an open mind, but quickly called into question the manner in which the author was prompting the reading to “consider” his concepts. By day 2 of the journal, it became clear to me that I would not be continuing. My spirit was utterly grieved by the exercises! I am hopeful that Lighthouse Trails will review this journal and prayerfully consider it. I feel it is dangerous teaching that is delving into contemplative prayer.

Below are some examples I extrapolated from the first 91 pages of the 192 page journal.

Day 1, Noon Reminder:

Try taking five minutes for meditation. Close your eyes and in your mind picture Jesus. Watch Him turn, look at you and hear Him say, “If you would come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Hear Him say these words again and again. Become aware of your reaction to His invitation.

Note: [from the journal] Some of the suggestions, like this one, may sound a bit inane or even non-traditional. We encourage you to try each exercise with an open mind. Give it 100%.

I was immediately adverse to the idea of “imagining” and “awareness.”  It jarred me, but I decided to simply skip past that section and continue on. Fast forward to the “noon reminder” on day 2:

Try repeating this phrase aloud ten times, “Lord Jesus, come interfere in my life.” (Again, this is one of the suggestions that may sound childish or impractical, but what do you have to lose in trying it?)

Matthew 6:7 comes to mind: “And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Here are some other observations I made as I looked deeper into the journal. First, there is a purposeful “convincing” being done to get the reader to participate in these exercises. The 2 examples I gave are just two of MANY. Idleman excuses these exercises as possibly “childish,” “silly,” “crazy,” and “impractical” but encourages the reader to give them a try anyway. When studying the Word of God, these are not words that come to mind or describe what our attitude or experience should be when doing so.

Within the first 91 pages, I have highlighted the word “imagine” countless times. A lot of prompting to visualize is used. There are also several times where it is suggested to repeat words and phrases. The words “meditate” and “meditation” are used frequently as well. The reader is encouraged to focus on their own thoughts, imagine, “picture the destination” (pg. 74), “picture the place you want to end up.” (pg. 74), “pictures Jesus” (pg. 85), “review your day in your mind’s eye” (pg. 50). The author then prompts the reader to jot down thoughts after completing the exercises.
On page 90 it says, “Sit, be still and take in your surroundings. Use your senses to observe everything going on around you.”

The first reference to prayer doesn’t even appear until page 24 and it says this: “Imagine saying your evening prayers to the person you are most likely to put ahead of Jesus.” There is a lot more on visualizations, meditation and being self-aware than there is on prayer!

I am continuing my research on this but am hoping your staff will take a look as well and let me know if my reservations are founded.

Thank You,
J.B.

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“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé

By Chris Lawson
(From his 2017 book, Taizé—A Community of Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

In a book titled A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship, and Reconciliation (with a foreword by Desmond Tutu), author Jason Brian Santos says that the “three prominent theological themes of Taizé are reconciliation, freedom and trust.”1

Taizé Community

In explaining “reconciliation,” Santos says that Brother Roger [founder of Taizé community in France]  did not want any particular “theology” at Taizé because that would hinder the “reconciliation” between those of different religious persuasions. Santos describes Brother Roger’s ecumenical vision:

As the community developed and new brothers joined Brother Roger, it became apparent that genuine ecumenism would be one of the most significant challenges the community would face. After all, for over four hundred years estrangement had existed between Protestants and Catholics. But for the young Swiss theologian, it was four hundred years too many. Brother Roger understood all of humanity to be reconciled to God in and through Christ. . . . all are equal in Taizé; the community becomes a living example of reconciliation. . . .

This, to a large degree, is why the Taizé chants were birthed to help bring young people from different Christian traditions together in a unified expression of prayer.2

Bearing in mind that these “unified expression[s] of prayer” are largely mystical repetitive chants and other contemplative practices (e.g., lectio divina, centering prayer), the words of the Catholic contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, come to mind. Merton once described a conversation he had with a Sufi (Islamic mystic) leader who told Merton there could be no fellowship between those of different religions as long as doctrines (he referred then to the “doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption”3) stood in the way. Merton assured him that while doctrines such as these were a barrier, there could be unity of spirit in the mystical realm.4 This is what Brother Roger was proposing for Taizé.

Jason Brian Santos, who spent time at Taizé researching the community, sums up Taizé’s view of reconciliation:

When Christ made all things new, he restored in us the image of God. Moreover, this image was restored in all of humanity. As a consequence, when we see our neighbor we ought to see the image of God; we ought to see Christ.5 (emphasis added)

Webster’s Dictionary defines “reconciliation” as “the act of reconciling, or the state of being reconciled; reconcilement; restoration to harmony; renewal of friendship.”6

To the Catholic Church, this reconciliation means something very different from the idea of two friends reconciling after a disagreement or estrangement. Rather, it sees the “reconciliation” between Catholics and Protestants as the reabsorption of Protestants into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as an institution, has always seen Protestants as “the lost brethren,” so the only feasible reconciliation is to bring them back. The papacy and the Roman hierarchy will only be fully satisfied when they have fully assimilated the Protestant church into its system on its terms.

In Roger Oakland’s book, The Good Shepherd Calls, he discusses the “Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation.”7 Oakland explains the efforts being made by both the Catholic Church and leaders in the Protestant church to eradicate the barriers that keep the Catholics and the Protestants from becoming one church. There is every reason to believe that Taizé desires this very same thing. And with 100,000 people coming to Taizé every year, they very well may see this union take place sooner than later.

An online promotional piece for Jason Brian Santos’ book A Community Called Taizé by his publisher, InterVarsity Press, asks the question, “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?”8 Like the emerging-church movement with its sensory-driven mystical contemplative practices, momentum is picking up rapidly in ecumenical movements worldwide. But why has the Taizé Community in particular grown so much in recent years? One apparent answer is that several popes and many Protestant groups have heartily promoted and endorsed it. While it is being touted as a place of reconciliation through love, certainly there is more going on than meets the eye.

Endnotes:
1. Jason Brian Santos, A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation (IVP Books, 2008, Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 1366.
2. Ibid.
3. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), pp. 109-110.
4. Ibid.
5. Jason Brian Santos, op. cit.,
6. http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Reconciliation.
7. Roger Oakland, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Inc, 2017), p. 131.
8. “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?” (InterVarsity Press website: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20100104080925/https://www.ivpress.com/title/ata/3525-look.pdf).

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“Truths We Believe about God” – A Theological Review of “Shack” Author’s New Book, “Lies We Believe About God”

By Larry DeBruyn
Guarding His Flock Ministries

A Biblical & Theological Refutation of Wm. Paul Young’s book, “Lies We Believe About God” (First in a series.)

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
—The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 2:1

Introduction
As promoted by the best-selling religious allegory The Shack, a non-Christian worldview is playing around with the mind and soul of evangelicalism even to questioning of salvation’s meaning. With the release of the movie by the same name, The Shack’s verbal images are now being visualized. Contemporaneously and capitalizing upon the publicity generated by the movie, yet another book by Wm. Paul Young has hit the market, Lies We Believe About God. [1] What Young covertly taught by allegory and metaphor in The Shack he now overtly teaches in Lies—teachings among others, regarding God, humanity, love, and salvation. Reportedly, Young admitted that, “The Shack is theology.” And then added, “But it is a theology wrapped in a story.” [2] Now in Lies We Believe About God, the shrouded “story” plays a more minor role as Wm. Paul Young openly states his theology. Young continues to exert a compelling presence among mainstream evangelicals through his interviews, books and release of the movie, The Shack. Leaders Pat Robertson and James Robison have praised the movie. [3] Featuring the book’s author, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has recently aired a weekly program Restoring The Shack. [4] To continue reading and for endnotes, click here.

Also by Larry DeBruyn:

The Present of “His Presence” (and Should We Practice “His Presence”?)

 

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The Blood of the Saints

By Ray Yungen 
One of the main tenets of New Age thought is peace, goodwill, and the unity of all humanity. Remember, the Age of Aquarius is to be the Age of Oneness. In context with this idea, the New Age term cleansing is quite disturbing. A number of books make reference to those who are laggards when the New Age reaches its maturity. New Age leaders consider these resisters as eventually the only hindrance in allowing this global oneness to occur:

Remnants of the Fifth Root Race [untransformed humanity] will continue to survive in the initial stages of the new Cosmic Cycle, but unless they increase their awareness or consciousness to the Higher Mind and the tempo of spirituality, they will be removed from the Life Stream of the Race.1 (emphasis added)

Unity-motivated souls will respond to His [the New Age Messiah’s] call, their inner drive for spiritual world unity will synchronize with higher energy. People opposing the recognition of the Christ may struggle intensely, but it will not be prolonged. The Christ energy by then will be so strong people will be dealt with according to their own individualized karma and their ability and desire to assimilate this accelerated energy.2 (emphasis added)

The final appearance of the Christ will be an evolutionary event. It will be the disappearance of egocentric [lower self], subhuman man and the ascension of God-centered Man. A new race, a new species, will inhabit the Earth–people who collectively have the stature of consciousness that Jesus had.3 (emphasis added)

Even Alice Bailey herself, who personified New Age consciousness, backs what these previous quotes imply:

The new era is coming; the new ideals, the new civilization, the new modes of life, of education, of religious presentation and of government are slowly precipitating and naught can stop them. They can, however, be delayed by the reactionary types of people, by the ultra-conservative and closed minds…. They are the ones who can and do hold back the hour of liberation. A spiritual fluidity, a willingness to let all preconceived ideas and ideals go, as well as all beloved tendencies, cultivated habits of thought and every determined effort to make the world conform to a pattern which seems to the individual the best because, to him, the most enticing–these must all be brought under the power of death.4 (emphasis added)

If one understands the rationale behind these statements, then it becomes clear what they are talking about. Those who will accept the Christ consciousness can stay–those who won’t–must go. The quote about people’s “ability and desire” to assimilate the “Christ energy” as the determining factor in their fate is very thought provoking.

Barbara Marx Hubbard, a major New Age proponent and a supporter of Marianne Williamson’s Department of Peace efforts in Washington, DC says there must be a “selection process” for those “who refuse to see themselves and others as a part of God [Hubbard’s New Age God].” She states:

He [God] describes, therefore, the necessity of a “selection process” that will select out resistant individuals who “choose” not to evolve.5 (emphasis added)

Human must become Divine. That is the law.6

According to New Ager David Spangler, Satan is the angel of man’s “inner evolution.” Christians know Lucifer to be Satan, the Adversary, and 2 Thessalonians 2:9 informs us that Satan is the one who will empower the Antichrist. Those defying the Antichrist will really be defying Satan–and they will suffer dearly for it.

Persecution and death is predicted in the Bible for those who won’t fall into line during the Antichrist’s rule. The parallel between what the Bible says about this period and the statements above are striking. The following prophecies reveal what is in store for those who will preach the real Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the true kingdom during this time. Jesus said in Matthew 24:9:

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

“They” are the many who are coming in His name claiming to be “christs.” Revelation says of this period:

And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10)

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

The following verse lends credence that this will be on an individual spiritual basis:

And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. (Luke 21:16)

This implies that a family member or a friend may be turned over to be dealt with for their own good. It will be seen as an altruistic act.

This view would most likely infuriate anyone involved with or attracted to New Age spirituality. After all, nowhere do you find New Agers saying they are going to kill anybody. It is left rather vague about how anyone will be removed. But the following channeled words by Neale Donald Walsch’s “God” explain the rationale for what most people would consider outrageous and impossible. Listen to his “God”:

So the first thing you have to understand–as I’ve already explained to you–is that Hitler didn’t hurt anyone. In a sense, he didn’t inflict suffering, he ended it.7

There is no “death.” Life goes on forever and ever. Life is. You simply change form…. After you change form, consequences cease to exist. There is just Knowing.8

The real issue is whether Hitler’s actions where [were] “wrong.” Yet I have said over and over again that there is no “right” or “wrong” in the universe. Now your thought that Hitler was a monster is based on the fact that he ordered the killing of millions of people, correct? What if I told you that what you call “death” is the greatest thing that could happen to anyone–what then?… Shall we therefore punish Bre’r Fox for throwing Bre’r Rabbit into the briar patch?9

This is a very revealing statement. Traditional morality has been virtually turned on its head here. In other words, according to the higher consciousness that Walsch is in tune with, killing people could actually be doing them a favor! But would Walsch think this is profound higher wisdom if he himself was shivering sick and starving in a cattle car bound for Auschwitz. Would he have a smile on his face if he were stripped naked and herded into a gas chamber to face a gruesome, agonizing death. I think not!

But incredibly, Walsch was one of the featured speakers in The Secret, which swept the Western world in popularity. In The Secret, Walsch is described as a “modern-day spiritual messenger”10 and his Conversations with God books including the one from which the previous quotes about Hitler were taken) are called “groundbreaking.”

Could there have been the same spiritual component to Hitler’s persecution of humanity in Europe? Most likely. Consider the following evidence. The swastika, the main symbol of Nazism, is an age-old Hindu symbol that is still found on many temples throughout India. The word is not even German, but Sanskrit-Svastika–meaning “that which is excellent.”11 A New Age book has described its meaning as representing “the final stage in which the chakra is active, developed, opened, and energized by awakened kundalini energy.”12 Thus, the very banner of Nazism stood for the energy that underlies the whole New Age movement. New Agers even acknowledge this. David Spangler makes reference in one of his books to “…the Nazi movement, which had many roots in occultism.”13 The swastika symbol was also prominently displayed on Madame Blavatsky’s personal brooch, in exactly the same style as the Nazi one (tilting at an angle to the right) decades before the Nazi Party was even formed. One can also see the parallel between Nazism and the Ancient Wisdom in the Hindu caste system, with its Brahmin (aryan) caste and its lower untouchable caste. The Nazis also took the term Aryan-literally, the worthy race–from Hinduism.14 The word has nothing to do with ancient Germany as many believe, but is a Hindu word meaning noble or superior.

Related Articles:

The Eerie Silence of a Silent Church  by Warren B. Smith

John Foxe (1517-1587) and His Book of Martyrs – An Introduction
Notes:
1. Donald Yott, Man and Metaphysics, (New York, NY: Sam Weiser, Inc., 1980), p. 58.
2. John Davis and Naomi Rice, Messiah and the Second Coming, (New York, NY: Sam Weiser, Inc., 1980), p. 152.
3. John White, “The Second Coming” (New Frontier Magazine, December 1987), p. 45.
4. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy, Section II – The General World Picture.
5. Warren Smith, False Christ Coming: Does Anybody Care? (Mountain Stream Press), p. 16, citing Barbara Marx Hubbard, Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1998), pp. 240, 267.
6. Ibid., p. 19, Smith citing Marx Hubbard from The Revelation (Novato, CA: Nataraj Publishing, 1995), p. 233.
7. Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God, Book 2 (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Road Publishing Company, Inc., 1997), p. 56.
8. Ibid., p. 40.
9. Ibid., p. 36.
10. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (New York, NY: Atria Books and Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, First Atria Books/Beyond Words hardcover edition, 2006), p. 197.
11. Geoffrey A. Barborka, Glossary of Sanskrit Terms (Buena Park, CA: Stockton Trade Press, Point Loma Publications, 1972), p. 64.
12. Zachary E Lansdowne, Ph. D., The Chakras and Esoteric Healing (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., First Indian edition: Delhi, 1993), p. 114.
13. David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred (New York, NY: Dell Publishing Company, 1984), p. 159.
14. Geoffrey A. Barborka, op. cit., p. 15.

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“Shack” Theology: Where Is the Devil?

By Warren B. Smith

I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.1 – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

The Shack’s author, William P. Young, quotes C.S. Lewis favorably and frequently in his books, but The Screwtape Letters by Lewis is not one of the books from which he has quoted. I bring up Lewis, not as an endorsement, but to point out a discrepancy. The Screwtape Letters is a novel that presents some of the many ways Christians can be effectively seduced and deceived by Satan and his demons—a subject that is completely ignored in The Shack and in Young’s other books. The discrepancy is that Young  chooses quotes from authors like Lewis to serve his own personal and theological agenda while conveniently ignoring writings by the same author that actually contradict his agenda. The Screwtape Letters is a perfect example.

The Screwtape Letters consist of a series of letters sent by a senior seducing spirit named Screwtape to his young understudy Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape teaches Wormwood how to subtly undermine and eventually destroy the faith of his Christian “patient.” In the quote cited above, Screwtape tells Wormwood to conceal himself in such a way that the designated individual remains unaware of his spiritual presence. And this is exactly what we find in The Shack. The Devil and his deceptive spirits are never mentioned—not even once. It’s no wonder Young avoids The Screwtape Letters when he quotes C.S. Lewis. Acknowledgement of a real Devil and seducing spirits plays no part in The Shack and its supposed expression of  Christian theology.

Young has a witty but innocuous C.S. Lewis quote at the beginning of The Shack’s main chapter on relationships.2 But where The Screwtape Letters serves to expose and warn about the ways Satan thwarts and undermines a believer’s relationship with God, Young’s novel—and in particular this chapter on relationships—says absolutely nothing in this regard. Given The Shack’s emphasis on the importance of  “relationship,” it seems odd that no mention is ever made in Young’s novel about a believer’s uninvited yet inevitable “relationship” with his Spiritual Adversary—Satan the Devil. There is no acknowledgment, no warning, no advice, no anything in The Shack concerning the Devil, his seducing spirits, and their many wiles.

Contrarily, the Bible tells believers to put on the full armor of God, so they can stand fast against the wiles of the Devil and powers of darkness that are very real (Ephesians 6:11-13). We are admonished to be “sober” and “vigilant” because our Spiritual Adversary is walking around like “a roaring lion” and “seeking whom he may devour”—whether that be in a shack or anywhere else (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are told to resist the Devil and his temptations with the Word of God—not with human wisdom and “relationship” (Matthew 4:1-11).

Young’s easy dismissal of the Devil implies that our Spiritual Adversary is not someone we have to contend with in our lives and relationships. Young goes so far as to teach that “evil and darkness” don’t even exist. Young puts these words in the mouth of his “Holy Spirit” character “Sarayu”:

Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence.3

But this is what the universal New Age Christ teaches—that “evil does not exist.” This false universal Christ states:

Innocence is wisdom because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist.4

With darkness having no existence of its own, it’s no wonder that Young’s presentation of evil and darkness agrees with the teachings of the New Age rather than the teachings of the Bible. His expressed disbelief in the existence of independent evil goes right along with his self-confessed universalist leanings.5

 Hidden in Plain Sight

The Shack’s Papa “God” cites a number of inhibiting factors concerning “relationship” in what Papa calls “all the limiting influences in your life that actively work against your freedom.”6 These limiting influences are also referred to as “that confluence of multifaceted inhibitors.”7 But again, Young fails to make any mention of the Devil as one of these influences or inhibitors. For a man who likes to quote C.S. Lewis, Young might want to read or reread The Screwtape Letters. It would seem that Wormwood-like seducing spirits have effectively convinced Young they have no existence. As a consequence of this spiritual deception, Young has defined the Devil right out of existence—out of The Shack, out of his “Christian” theology, and out of the Bible. Sadly, most Shack readers become so emotionally caught up in Young’s novel, they never notice that the Devil is completely absent from his Shack story and Shack theology.

So where is the Devil in Young’s novel? Be sure of this—the Devil’s presence completely overshadows and thoroughly permeates the pages of The Shack. Cloaked in humor, clouded in human wisdom, concealed in flattery, tucked away in mockery and sarcasm, and hidden in half-truths and lies, the Devil thoroughly inhabits the many conversations that ultimately produce Young’s universal, New Age-flavored Shack theology. The Devil may appear to be absent from The Shack, but for those who have the eyes to see, the Devil is the unspoken force that inspires Young and purposely and cunningly drives his novel. As they say, the Devil is in the details. The Devil is not absent from The Shack, he is just hidden in plain sight.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us:  for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Endnotes

  1. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: Macmillan Company, 1960), p. 39.
  2. William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity ( Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 104.
  3. Ibid., p. 136.
  4. A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume (Glen Ellen, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975) (Text) p. 38.
  5. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017), pp. 118-119. (Young states that he believes in universal salvation.)
  6. William P. Young, The Shack, op., cit., p. 95.
  7. Ibid.

Related Information:

BOOKLET – The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Warren B. Smith

The Shack’s Universal Papa

“The Shack,” TBN, and the New Age

 

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Can Cultures Be Redeemed? – Emerging Church Says “Yes” – Bible Says “No”

By Nanci Des Gerlaise

[Indigenous People’s Movement] leaders teach that God has been redeeming cultures and that He placed in all cultures a way for men to have a relationship with God outside of the Gospel.1

DID GOD CREATE CULTURES?
A growing trend in the evangelical church is what is referred to as “redeeming the cultures” or “Cultural Identification.” Essentially, it is the idea that God created cultures and has no desire for anyone to leave their cultural practices but can incorporate their belief in Jesus into their already existing culture. Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries has studied this “redeeming the culture” movement extensively and writes:

The new idea being presented is that God has left certain elements in every culture that are redeemable qualities, pathways to Himself . . . that He revealed Himself to nearly all indigenous people groups prior to the Gospel being brought to them [and that] in every culture “God has left treasures and worthy traditions within the indigenous cultures” [and that] we can bring Jesus Christ to people and then leave them to worship God in their own cultural and religious ways. . . .

What is taught is that God set forth His plan of salvation through all ancient cultures and that “redemptive analogies” can be found in most, if not all, cultures.2

But did God really create cultures? I do not believe He did because cultures are man-made. Webster’s Dictionary defines culture as being: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” Another definition states:

The quality in a person, or society that rises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc. 2). a particular form or state of civilization.3

On the contrary to what leaders in the “redeeming the cultures” movement teach, most cultures were “pagan, polytheistic and animistic.”4 For most of these cultures, there was a significant emphasis placed on religious practices. Oppenheimer points out that the words culture or society cannot be found in the Bible, but rather it talks about “nations” and how these nations worshiped false gods as opposed to the “one true God”5 (read Romans 1).

What does the Bible have to say about the different nations (cultures)? In Deuteronomy, we are cautioned to:

Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them . . . that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-32)

And Deuteronomy 18:14 tells us not to “follow the abominations of those nations.”

In all of human history, God has sanctioned just one culture, and that was Israel. This may be a humbling thing for other cultures to accept, but this is what the Word of God clearly demonstrates as the prophet Isaiah said, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:13). Then, after Jesus came and died upon the Cross, people from every other culture were given the opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we can be grafted in as adopted sons and daughters. And God takes the born-again, grafted-in believer and separates him or her from the world to Himself “to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).

Also in Acts, Barnabas and Paul cried out to the Gentiles, who were about to offer sacrifice to them, saying:

[W]ho in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14:16, emphasis added)

Paul and Barnabas said this because they were shocked by the ignorance and blasphemous behavior of the people.

The apostle Peter reminds us that God has set apart “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” so that we who believe on Him would be called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:6-10). God calls people out of their cultures and invites them to come into His kingdom.

CAN WE REDEEM THE CULTURES?
In the Gospel of Matthew, it says:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We are to go and preach to the different cultures and teach them “to observe all things” that God has instructed in the Word of God. Nowhere in Scripture does it even remotely suggest that one’s culture is to be redeemed. And yet, there are leaders within Christianity who are teaching this very thing. In a YWAM training manual, it states:

Appreciating one’s culture is appreciating the creation of God in a unique and beautiful manner. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are also called to redeem our culture as we grow in God.6

Within the Indigenous People’s Movement, leaders are teaching that each culture already had God’s truth before they ever heard the Gospel. Leon Siu, a leader of this movement, states:

A few years ago some friends and I were contemplating how we would be able to reach indigenous peoples and we thought that what was prevalent at that time was a misconception among, within the church of God’s presence here in the islands. The misconception that, as was expressed earlier, was that God didn’t arrive until the missionaries arrived. You know, and so when we started to look at this we started to look into our culture and see what things within our culture what God had originally intended for this particular group of people, Hawaiians.7

But Scripture tells us that the Gospel was kept a “mystery” hidden “from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:25-26). This is why Jesus gave that command to the disciples to go to all the nations sharing the truth of God’s Word. The people of the world’s cultures did not have that truth until it was brought to them.

On Leon Siu’s ministry website, it states that they want to show “indigenous people, missionaries and Christians . . . the true nature of Jesus,” saying that His way is not to be a “foreign religion that destroys people groups and their cultures, but one that brings people groups and their cultures to their highest fulfillment.”8

Sandy Simpson, founder of Deception in the Church ministry in Hawaii, has written an expose titled “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’s Movement.” He tells readers:

In the Old Testament God revealed Himself to the Jews exclusively and there was no salvation apart from the Jews. In the New Testament God revealed Himself through the apostles, and especially through Paul to the Gentiles. All the gods of the nations were and are false gods (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20, Jeremiah 16:19, Amos 2:4).

Even the “supreme beings” of the nations are not God, as in the case of Amen (Amon) of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25), Hadad of the Arameans (1 Kings 20:28), Marduk of Babylon (Daniel 3:16-18) and many other “detestable” gods.9

Another research ministry, Discernment Research Group, warns that “the new heresies teach that man can come to Christ without the Gospel of Salvation but by some other avenue inherent in their culture and religion.” DRG describes what this view is really like:

And they don’t need Jesus to be saved, but can call upon their own local deity. And once they get “saved,” they can “redeem” the pagan religious practices in their culture and make it part of their new faith. They never need to separate from their old ways. In fact, they are encouraged to bring back the old pagan ways!10

We cannot call on strange gods and find salvation. The Bible is absolutely clear about this:

Hear, O my people . . . if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. (Isaiah 81:8-9)

This “progressive” way of looking at evangelism is prevalent and widespread now. One of its key leaders, Daniel Kikawa, author of Perpetuated in Righteousness, believes that:

Christians should cease representing Jesus as the Son of the foreign God of a foreign people. . . . We should instead introduce Jesus as the Son of their creator God.11 (emphasis added)

John Dawson, president of YWAM, would agree with what Kikawa says. He states that Kikawa’s book “points the way to an exciting new understanding” of the Gospel.12

But this “new understanding” is very flawed. You can’t just add Jesus to any religion or cultural belief system and say that is the biblical Gospel. The Bible says, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14). In man’s carnal mind, he cannot accept this. But when we learn to trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and when we come to believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then we can rejoice that He has provided a way of escape from eternal damnation. He has not left us alone. We no longer complain or lament that there is only one way to Heaven—rather, we rejoice that there IS a way to Heaven. It is like this little analogy: A woman is in a house caught on fire, and there is no way to get out. Suddenly, in through the door bursts a big strong firefighter. “Ma’am, I am here to rescue you.” Will she say, “Are you the ONLY way out?” No, she will rejoice that there IS a way out. That is how God earnestly, zealously, and jealously longs to have it be with us.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The following comparison chart shows the differences between man’s view and God’s view of cultures:13

Man’s View: All cultures are equal in their worth.
God’s View: All cultures are not equal.

Man’s View: God loves all cultures and nations as they are.
God’s View: God does love all people but not their cultures. He does not accept their various ways to worship but has given man the correct manner in which to worship.

Man’s View: All religious practices and rituals are acceptable ways to approach God.
God’s View: Only one way is given by God that is acceptable, through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.

Man’s View: We are all united as one humanity and should accept everyone as they are.
God’s View: Our humanity is united in sin (in Adam), resulting in our separation from God, and we need to be united in Christ. Christ, and Christ alone, then becomes our common denominator.

Man’s View: All the gods of the nations are the same or have insignificant differences.
God’s View: The gods of the nations are false; YHWH alone is God, and there is no other according to His own Word.

Ephesians tells us that before we heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we were without hope. We cannot obtain this hope through the gods of the nation’s cultures.

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh . . . That at that time ye were without Christ, being . . . strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12)

What will happen to the false gods, which have no life in them? Jeremiah tells of their future:

The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11)

NATIVE AMERICANS & THE MISSIONARIES
Native American author and lecturer for the Indigenous People’s Movement, the late Richard Twiss, taught that the Gospel was a “source of division and stumbling block for First Nations peoples and this is to be blamed on Western missionaries.”14

In a sense, Twiss is partially correct in saying that the Gospel was a source of division. It was, and it still is! Quoting from the Old Testament, listen to what Paul says about Jesus:

Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and a rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:33)

And Jesus said:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

It is true that the Gospel does divide. It divides truth from error.

Western missionaries did lead First Nations people to God through the Gospel and still do today. But the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples (WCGIP) teach the traditions of men and belittle those faithful missionaries who gave of themselves to lovingly share the Gospel with the First Nations and Native American people. Sandy Simpson explains that while there were some “misguided missionaries” who tried to “change indigenous cultural values to Western ones,” the IPM leaders “ignored the many missionaries who, in presenting the Gospel and sound doctrine, necessarily preached things that were in opposition to demonic cultures and practices like those of the Indians.”15 Simpson explains further:

The missionaries were faced with heathen cultures, not unlike their own in the past, and attempted to apply biblical principles, in cooperation with those in First Nations, to come up with a way of living in accordance to the Word of God. . . .

Mistakes were made, but if you talked to the first generation of converts . . . you would understand fully what First Nation’s cultures were like at the time. Sexual perversion, women and child abuse, murder, human sacrifice, ruling elite who lorded it over everyone else, worship of demons, and other atrocities were commonplace. Those who heard the Gospel preached to them and recognized the freedom in Christ offered were saved and delivered from the evil in their cultures.16

The IPM leadership does not understand what these cultures were like before the missionaries came. Simpson also states:

[The missionaries] were not sent to bring culture nor was that their purpose. They were primarily bringing God’s values, the Bible, and applying its time-tested truths, together with First Nations peoples, so that they might be light and salt to the nations.17

Terry LeBlanc, a leader in the Indigenous People’s Movement, tries to convince people that the “American Indians were not worshiping different gods or worshiping incorrectly before the missionaries brought to them Christ.”18 LeBlanc states:

There’s a myth that we have labored under for centuries in indigenous communities and the myth is that we are a godless heathen people.19

What the IPM is teaching in their vilifying of missionaries is a tactic also used by leaders in the emerging church movement, which convinces people that the former or biblical way of doing things is inherently bad. This is the platform they use to introduce radical new ideas to create a paradigm shift that is, unfortunately, unbiblical and leads people further and further from the Gospel message of salvation.

A book that I recently wrote the foreword to is titled Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires. The book was written by a Canadian missionary who lived for many years among the Cree people in Manitoba in the late 1800s. When you hear Egerton Ryerson Young’s account of his life with the Cree as a missionary, it is a much different account than what is being told in North American public school history books and by groups like the Indigenous People’s Movement. In the foreword of Young’s book, I wrote:

“[T]he Gospel was shared with Natives, including medicine men, which so often resulted in decisions being made for Jesus Christ. . . . [Mr. Young] shares very extraordinary events as he journeys to the remotest parts of Canada sharing the Gospel to the lost. He describes witnessing boldly to medicine men regarding their pagan beliefs with very encouraging and positive results achieved by no other than the Holy Spirit.

“Young tells [a] story of an old Chief who was taught the truth by a missionary regarding his belief in paganism. The missionary urged him to renounce this pagan, mystical spirituality and become a Christian. The old Chief was aware that he was a great sinner and needed a Savior. What an illustration this story is to show that God has placed in each of our hearts a conscience to know right from wrong.

“[T]he Gospel is indeed for everyone, and a loving God desires that none should perish without hearing about the Gospel (2 Peter 3:9). God does not accept the diverse spirituality of all cultures as being locked into truth. For Him to accept false and contradictory spirituality, while the Gospel calls all to repentance and belief in the Savior, would make God a liar—because there can only be one truth. And God cannot tell a lie because He is just and holy.”20

What is being taught in the new “emerging” way of doing missions (or the “new missiology”) is that we cannot teach that salvation is the finished work of the Cross and that we must incorporate any unredeemable “articles of affection” to godly worship such as: fetishes, tobacco, peyote, sweet grass, drums, prayer feathers, frenzied dances, etc.

But to do so is idolatry in God’s eyes and is blatant syncretism, from which we need to repent if we have engaged in these forbidden practices. We are redeemed and purified only by the blood of Jesus Christ, not through man-made efforts such as sweats, smudging ceremonies or via any ritual or ceremony. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross and declared, “It is finished!” Therefore, no other avenue is available by which we can be purified or redeemed. Remember, there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ Himself (1 Timothy 2:5). But look what He promises those who remain true in standing in the faith:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife [the saints] hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19: 7-9)

Titus Coan was a missionary in the 1830s to the Hawaiian Native people. Though he is little known today, some say he was the greatest missionary who ever lived. His is another example of the contrast between biblical missionaries to the Native people and the new missiology that is being presented by Leon Siu, Richard Twiss, John Dawson, Terry LeBlanc, and the other IPM leaders. In this account by Coan, it’s not difficult to see what happens when the true biblical Gospel is preached:

At one place where I preached, there was an old and hardened Chief, who neither feared God nor regarded man. I preached to him fearlessly, personally, pointedly, calling him by name, and in the presence of his people. I charged home his guilt upon him, and in the name of the Lord urged him to immediate repentance. He was much moved, and promised repentance the first day, but I was not satisfied that his proud heart was broken.

On the second day I renewed the charge. He stood the siege for awhile, but at length his feelings became insuppressible, and all of a sudden he broke forth in a cry that almost rent the heavens. The sword of the Spirit was in his veins. He submitted on the spot, and appears like a newborn babe. The effect of this scene on the congregation was overwhelming. The place was shaken. Multitudes cried out for mercy, and multitudes turned to the Lord. I could tell you of many similar facts. God has done great things for us. I feel like lying in the dust and adoring His grace.21

Oh that more missionaries today could have such zeal and confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is that glorious thing that washes away all our sins and gives us garments of purity and cleanness to wear for eternity.

THE TOWER OF BABEL
This brings us back to Genesis 11:3-4 where the people decided to build a temple or ziggurat (ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides), which was built as a monument to their own greatness. In verse 4, the tower was a great human achievement to the people themselves and not to God. We often build monuments to ourselves such as those described above. It can be in the form of expensive clothing, fancy vehicles, huge homes, or jobs with titles that we use to give us identity and self-worth. Yet when we do this, we are usurping God from His rightful place in our lives. Are there “towers” like this in your life? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves. Since the attempt to build the tower of Babel, man has never ceased in his attempts to attain greatness and stature.

Cultural spirituality, with its many traditions, is not supported by Scripture; rather we are met with God’s consistent warnings throughout the Bible, one of which is found in Colossians:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

And in the Gospel of Mark, we find:

Making the Word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7:13)

The word ‘culture’ appears nowhere in the Bible from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. The Greek word paradosis translates into the English word “tradition.” Pay careful attention to what God has to say about tradition in the following verses:

Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:2-3, 6)

Also see Matthew 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:3-13; and Colossians 2:8.

Man developed culture at Babel and passed down this same teaching to all generations to this apostate age in which we live. Grandpa used to share how the New Age (the New Spirituality) hijacked Native Spirituality. Yet, in all this, one thing remains certain—all unbiblical teaching originates from Babel.

The “redeeming the cultures” mindset:

. . . permits the Word of God to be “contextualized” to a pagan culture through images, icons and symbols, thereby retaining the pagan elements of that culture. Using “redemptive analogies” (another heresy), these pagan beliefs and practices are claimed to be “redeemable” and are “christianized.” Even the name of God is being changed to that of pagan deities!22

The resurgence of Native Spirituality made a huge comeback because these traditions were kept alive in the underground world and originate from the age-old idolatry and witchcraft Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns against. To blend error with truth results in damnable heresies resulting in swift destruction, which the Bible warns us strongly about:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2: 1)

Scripture gives no indication at all that we are to esteem the cultures or traditions of men. In Amy Dueckman’s article about the circle event, she says:

Opening the evening, members of the Sto:lo Coqualeetza Elders group of Chilliwack presented a special welcome with songs. Aldred then addressed the group, telling of his experiencing Christianity as a Native person who wondered if the Gospel was just for white people, or if it could speak to him, too. “When the Gospel is shared, it must be in the heart language of the people,” he concluded. “Instead of telling [people] how to be Christian,” he asked, “how about just telling them the story?”23

What story would that be? We do not have the authority to change the way we are to share the Gospel! We are commissioned to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is in the business of redeeming individual people that He might set apart a people for Himself. He did not say, “Go into the world and disciple the nations using stories!” The only story we are to share is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to preach Christ crucified!

Man’s rebellion against God in Babel, following the flood, once again became a situation requiring God’s judgment and intervention due to mankind’s wickedness. Had God not confounded man’s language, which in turn resulted in man being dispersed and disseminated into nations, man’s wickedness only would have worsened with no end in sight. If you read from Genesis 1 to Genesis 11, you will read that God created man, birds, animals, fish, and creeping things. It does not say that He created cultures. God told the people to be fruitful and multiply. Man disobeyed, and instead, in his rebellion, man attempted to build a city to avoid being sent away. But God did just that anyway after they rebelled the second time by refusing to go forth and multiply (Genesis 10:30-32; Genesis 11:1-11). Man developed his own heathen traditions and passed down this teaching at Babel. In the Old Testament, plenty of evidence exists where God told the Israelites what they should do about other gods that were worshiped within the constructs of other belief systems (other cultures):

And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. (Exodus 23:13)

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. (Psalm 96:5)

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. (Deuteronomy 18:9)

Today, God is bidding Christians everywhere, from all cultures, to separate ourselves from all the idolatry imbedded in our traditions and to hold fast to the Gospel–God’s plan for salvation for whosoever will believe on Him (John 3:15).

To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed? in booklet format, click here.

Notes:
1. Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church, “Reasons to Reject the “World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People” Movement” (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
3. Random House Dictionary, taken from Let Us Reason website: “Looking For God in All the Wrong Places” (http://www.letusreason.org/Emerge13.htm).
4. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
5. Ibid.
6. YWAM, Island Breeze Training, “What is a Discipleship Training School?” (http://web.archive.org/web/20070712212212/http://www.islandbreeze.com.au/training.htm).
7. Leon Siu, Aloha Ke Akua, Word to the World with host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001, show #544, courtesy Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church who transcribed this program.
8. Aloha Ke Akua Ministries (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha – no longer online).
9. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement” (March 2006, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
10. Discernment Research Group, “The Indigenous People’s Movement” (August 2, 2007, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/08/indigenous-peoples-movement.html).
11. Daniel Kikawa, Perpetuated in Righteousness (Aloha Ke Akua Pub; 4th edition, 1994), p. 27.
12. Aloha Ke Akua “Books” page (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha/id3.html).
13. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
14. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement,” op. cit.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
19. Terry LeBlanc, Word to the World program #542, as cited by Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
20. Nanci Des Gerlaise, from the foreword of Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2011).
21. Titus Coan, Missionary to Hawaii (http://www.path2prayer.com/article/1051/revival-and-holy-spirit/books-sermons/new-resources/famous-christians-books-and-sermons/titus-coan-missionary-to-hawaii).
22. Discernment Research Group, “The Newest Heresy of the NAR: Orality” (Herescope blog, March 8th, 2006 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/03/newest-heresy-of-nar-orality.html).
23. Amy Dueckman,“Listening Circle Brings Together Two Cultures” (Intotemak, Mennonite Church Canada, Summer 2006, Vol. 35, No. 2, www.mennonitechurch.ca/files/news/intotemak/intotemakv35n2.pdf).

To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed?, click here.

The information in this booklet is extracted from Muddy Waters. Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality is written by Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree First Nations. Nanci is the daughter and grandaughter of medicine men and was raised on a Canadian settlement.

Related Material:

Ten Questions for Those Who Claim the “Supreme Beings” of the Nations are the True God by Sandy Simpson

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When a Young Girl Meets a Mystic and Is Introduced to Lectio Divina

LTRP Note: The following is an excerpt from Carolyn A. Greene’s novel, Castles in the Sand, the first novel published that addresses the contemplative prayer (spiritual formation) movement. In this excerpt, the young Christian Teresa [Tessa], now attending a Christian college, is in her dorm room, thinking about her new spiritual director, Ms. Jasmine, who has promised to teach her students how to enter the “inner life” just like the mystics of the past. For Tessa, a lonely foster girl who lost her parents years earlier in a tragic accident, this talk of a better, more fulfilling life was just what she was looking for.

from Castles in the Sand
by Carolyn A. Greene

The school’s spiritual formation professor had been responsible for bringing Ms. Jasmine to Flat Plains Bible College as their new spiritual director. Tessa was immediately drawn to her. Ms. Jasmine was so down to earth…. [Tessa] admired her from the very beginning.

Tessa’s mind turned to Ms. Jasmine’s promise to soon introduce them to the inner life. Although Tessa felt guarded about anything that came close to her inner life, she was drawn to Ms. Jasmine …

Ms. Jasmine had placed colorful tapestry cushions in a circle at the front of the lecture hall, and fifteen minutes into her talk the students were encouraged to take one and seek out a quiet place of solitude anywhere on the campus. Once they had found a cozy spot, they were to use the outline they’d been given to practice a listening exercise called lectio divina, a “divine reading” that would make them feel closer to Jesus.

“Come back in half an hour,” Ms Jasmine had told them, smiling as they filed by to pick up their cushions….

The listening exercise they were to do seemed simple enough. After choosing a Scripture passage, they were instructed to read it slowly a number of times and wait for a word to “come alive” to them. Then they were to take that single word, close their eyes and repeat it for several minutes. Ms. Jasmine’s had read the outline ahead of time to the class. Her voice had a soothing, relaxing effect:

Sit with your back straight in a comfortable position.
Notice first the faraway sounds that you can hear.
Next, allow yourself to become aware of sounds that are nearer.
Then listen closely to your own heartbeat; this is your very own rhythm of life.
As you shut out these sounds, you will hear the sound of silence within yourself.
Listen like this for several minutes . . .
Write down what you hear God saying to you.
Remember, he is all around you and in you.

Tessa had found her own quiet spot on a bench in the courtyard, where yellow and red leaves drifted gently to the ground from the tree above. It had seemed weird at first, and Tessa wasn’t altogether sure about it. But she read Psalm 15, and soon the word “truth” stood out to her. She straightened her back, closed her eyes, and repeated the word for at least five minutes. It was awkward this first time, because she kept looking down at Ms. Jasmine’s instructions, wanting to get it just right. At one point, she thought she had actually heard a voice speak to her. Ms. Jasmine had told them to imagine themselves having a conversation with Christ. “Don’t be afraid to listen,” were the words she thought she heard, although it was probably just the wind in the trees.

Why not try it again, Tessa thought now, as she lay wide awake in the dark. She put her head under her favorite flannel-covered pillow to shut out [her roommate] Katy’s snoring, turned on her LED book light under the blanket, and reread a page in what was now her favorite book, Selections from the Interior Castle, by Teresa of Avila of Spain. Even the picture on the cover had come alive in her imagination. It was a painting of an ancient castle with a high tower on a green hilltop. Leading up to the castle’s stone archways were winding dirt roads that crossed over stone bridges. Tessa’s imagination took her back to the storybook her mom often read to her when she was a little girl. Hesitantly, but with anticipation, she opened her new book to the page she had dog-eared earlier and began to read:

One kind of rapture is that in which the soul, even though not in prayer, is touched by some word it remembers or hears about God. It seems that His Majesty from the interior of the soul makes the spark we mentioned increase, for He is moved with compassion in seeing the soul suffer so long a time from its desire.

So beautifully written, thought Tessa. She read it over several times. Now that was beautiful literature, the kind she would like to read in the solitude of a beautiful meadow in a deep, sheltered valley. It was perfect. The word that jumped out at her was “spark.” St. Teresa and Ms. Jasmine both talked about the spark within. Ever since her parents died in the crash, Tessa felt as if her own spark had been extinguished. Perhaps she would soon be able to feel the spark come to life again if she could practice being silent like this more often. When she closed her eyes, she could almost see a tiny light growing brighter in the darkness, like a light at the end of a long tunnel. Then again, maybe it was just the lingering glare from her book light. For a moment, she tried to focus on the light. Finally, Tessa quietly turned off the light, laid Gran’s bookmark between the pages where she had finished reading, and put the book on her nightstand. At least she had figured out how to make Katy stop talking.

Tomorrow Ms. Jasmine was going to take their SF class outside into the fresh air. They were going to practice another prayer exercise called centering and take the first prayer walk through the brand-new campus labyrinth. Tessa felt as if she was about to step into a new realm, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was. Maybe Flat Plains Bible College was not such a stuffy place to be after all. She would text Gramps in the morning. He’d be happy to know she was actually beginning to like this place. (from chapter 6, Castles in the Sand)

Also see:

Table of Contents and Chapter One

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis

Chapter 19: “Bad Counsel”

What People Are Saying About Castles in the Sand:

A great read. The author has real talent. Characters like Gramps are amazingly well-sketched. Good story lay-out too, with flashes of humor. The story makes what is happening in schools & churches clear in a way mere reporting can’t. E.L., Pennsylvania, U.S.

An excellent story with an urgent message. Teenaged/college-aged girls will want to read this book because the main character is their age and they will be intrigued by “a mysterious young man who reaches out to help Tessa. Additionally, parents and grandparents of young adults will want to read the book because of the subtle implication of the spiritual danger involved in things such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer etc. And if their sons and daughters are in Christian colleges, these words are now likely a part of their children’s regular vocabulary, and naive, uninformed parents will immediately have their interest piqued when they read those words. D.H., Alberta, Canada

I’m on my second reading of Castles in the Sand. It is even better the second time!! The bonus book you sent me has been read by several people. Hannah [14 year old daughter] was the first to read the book in our house, and it equipped her to address her youth group about the terror of Avila. The leader was recommending they read Teresa of Avila’s work. Hannah spoke right up about how bad it is. You could hear a pin drop, the way the kids were so attentive. K.R., Kansas, U.S.

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