Why Rick Warren Should Not Tell Rob Bell: “Just wanted to encourage you to ignore critics.”

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On August 4th, it was reported by Transplant Ministries (a radio ministry that “follows,” but is opposed to, Rick Warren on Twitter) that Rick Warren sent the following message to emergent leader, Rob Bell: @RickWarren: “thenoomaguy Hey Rob, Just wanted to encourage you to ignore critics. If you weren’t impacting & making a difference, they’d ignore you. rick.” The message was allegedly meant to go out only to Rob Bell but was apparently sent out to over 17,000 Twitter followers. If Rick Warren did indeed send this message to Rob Bell, is there any valid reason why America’s most popular evangelical pastor should not have done that? The following from Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, answers that question. Keep in mind too that the spirituality of Rob Bell is the same as the spirituality of Leonard Sweet. And when one understands that Rick Warren resonates with Leonard Sweet (see A “Wonderful” Deception for that documentation), it is easier to understand why he would encourage Rob Bell to ignore his critics. Sadly, Calvary Chapel’s Greg Laurie recently shared a platform with Leonard Sweet (at the 2009 National Worship Conference) and will be speaking at Saddleback on August 9th. In addition, Calvary Chapel recently had Mike Erre (pastor of Rock Harbor) who has publicly promoted the spirituality of Leonard Sweet, speak to their young people. These are not good signs for Calvary Chapel, who in the past stated they would not be going toward the new spirituality.

“The Next Billy Graham?”
by Roger Oakland (from Faith Undone)

In a Chicago Sun-Times article, the headline reads, “The Next Billy Graham?” At first glance, someone like Rick Warren or Luis Palau might come to mind. But neither of those were who the reporter had in mind. Instead, Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill (Michigan), is named as a possible successor. While that may seem unlikely to many, the article quotes Brian McLaren as saying it “very well could be true.”1 And in January 2007, Bell was named number ten in the “50 Most Influential Christians in America,” coming in as more “influential” than Rick Warren (#16) and Luis Palau (#15).2

Bell, a graduate of Wheaton College (the same as Billy Graham), is the producer for short films called Noomas (derived from the word Pneuma, meaning breath or spirit.) In his Nooma film called Breathe, Bells states: “Each day we take around 26,000 breaths … Our breathing should come from our stomach, not our chest.”3

This sounds fairly benign at first glance. But in a 2004 Christianity Today article titled “Emergent Mystique,” Bell says, “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”4 Is Bell just trying to sound postmodern and culturally relevant when he says this, or does he really believe that Christianity is an Eastern religion? The answer to that question can be found in two people with whom Bell strongly resonates.

In Bell’s Velvet Elvis, in the “Endnotes” section, Bell recommends Ken Wilber (whom I mentioned in chapter two as one of Leonard Sweet’s “New Light” teachers). Of Wilber, Bell states:

For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity, set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.5

Ken Wilber was raised in a conservative Christian church, but at some point he left that faith and is now a major proponent of Buddhist mysticism. His book that Bell recommends, A Brief History of Everything, is published by Shambhala Publications, named after the term that in Buddhism means the mystical abode of spirit beings. Wilber is one of the most respected and highly regarded theoreticians in the New Age movement today.

Wilber is perhaps best known for what he calls integral theory. On his website, he has a chart called the Integral Life Practice Matrix, which lists several activities one can practice “to authentically exercise all aspects or dimensions of your own being-in-the-world.”6 Here are a few of the spiritual activities that Wilber promotes: yoga, Zen, centering prayer, kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), TM, tantra (Hindu-based sexuality), and kundalini yoga. There are others of this nature, as well. A Brief History of Everything discusses these practices (in a favorable light) as well.

For Rob Bell to say that Wilber’s book is “mind-blowing” and readers should spend three months in it leaves no room for doubt regarding Rob Bell’s spiritual sympathies. What is alarming is that so many Christian venues, such as Christian junior high and high schools, are using Velvet Elvis and the Noomas.

Wilber’s integral theory (history of everything) is the same as Leonard Sweet’s Theory of Everything,7 which in essence is God in everything. And that is what Rob Bell means when he says “emergence theory and divine creativity.” In the section of his book where he refers to Wilber in a footnote, Bell says the following:

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The next verse is significant: “The land produced vegetation.” Notice that it doesn’t say, “God produced vegetation.” God empowers the land to do something. He gives it the capacity to produce trees and shrubs and plants and bushes that produce fruit and seeds. God empowers creation to make more.8

While that might sound a little obscure, this is an example of “divine creativity” that Bell mentions in his book–creation (including man) is co-creating with God, and the reason is that all creation is divine. Everything is God. Of course, we know from Scripture that this is not true. As you read on in Faith Undone, the significance of this will unfold.

On March 19, 2006, Bell unveiled a little more about his spiritual beliefs. He invited a Dominican sister to speak at his church. He said as he introduced her, “I have a friend who has taught me so much about resting in the presence of God.”9 During the service, Bell and the sister led the congregation in various meditative exercises.

The sister who spoke at Mars Hill during that service is from the Dominican Center at Marywood in Michigan where a wide variety of contemplative/mystical practices are used and taught.10 One of the practices at the Center is Reiki (similar to therapeutic touch). The belief behind Reiki is that everything in the universe is united together through energy. In Japan, the word reiki is the standard term for the occult (or ghost energy). It is ghost energy because when Reiki is practiced, spirit guides are reached. William Lee Rand, the head of the International Center for Reiki Training, states:

There are higher sources of help you can call on. Angels, beings of light and Reiki spirit guides as well as your own enlightened self are available to help you…. The more you can open to the true nature of Reiki which is to have an unselfish heart centered desire to help others, then the more the Reiki spirit guides can help you.11

Reiki is becoming very popular in the Western world. In the United States alone, there are now over one million Reiki practitioners.12 If Reiki gains a foothold into Christianity, Rob Bell’s statement “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion” could be very accurate in the sense that Eastern religion (i.e., mysticism) is quickly becoming a qualifier for mainstream Christianity. (from chapter 7, Faith Undone)

1. Cathleen Falsani, citing Brian McLaren in “Maverick minister taps new generation” (Chicago Sun Times, June 4, 2006, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4155/is_20060604/ai_n16455238/pg_1).
2. “The 50 Most Influential Christians” (The Church Report, January 2007, http://www.thechurchreport.com/mag_ article. php? mid =875&mname=January).
3. Cathleen Falsani citing Rob Bell, “Maverick minister taps new generation.”
4. Andy Crouch citing Rob Bell, “Emergent Mystique” (Christianity Today, November 2004).
5. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), p. 192.
6. From Ken Wilber’s website, http://www.kenwilber.com/personal/ILP/MyILP.html.
7. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. 11.
8. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p. 157.
9. Quote from the March 19, 2006 service at Mars Hill. Audio file of this service was available on Mars Hill website: http://www.marshill.org/teaching.
10. See Dominican Center at Marywood: http://www.dominican center.com/Bodywork/432.
11. William Lee Rand, “Developing Your Reiki Practice” (International Center for Reiki Training, http://www.reiki.org/ReikiPractice/PracticeHomepage.html).
12. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 13.