The 4th Annual National Conference on Innovation, sponsored by the Ohio Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, will take place in October in Columbus, Ohio and will feature New Age sympathizer/emerging futurist Leonard Sweet. On the conference website, it states:
Partners in Innovation is a convergence of people and organizations committed to providing the environment, encouragement, resources and support for the emergence of the Adventist Church of the future in North America…. We ask you to consider becoming a partner in developing this far-reaching initiative to energize a new future for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.
Leonard Sweet, who promotes mysticism, christ-consciousness, and the “New Lights” movement that touts people like Matthew Fox, Ken Wilber, and other mystic proponents, recently spoke at Rick Warren’s Small Groups Conference. Sweet states in his book Quantum Spirituality that the “power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people ‘in-phase’ with the Christ consciousness (meaning the divinity of man) and connected with one another (meaning interspirituality)(p. 147).
The emerging church has been making inroads into Seventh Day Adventism as it has in most of “religion in the Western world.” Roger Oakland, in his book Faith Undone, discusses Samir Selmanovic, a Muslim turned-Seventh Day Adventist pastor-turned emerging figure:
Samir Selmanovic … has some interesting and alarming views on Christianity. He states:
The emerging church movement has come to believe that the ultimate context of the spiritual aspirations of a follower of Jesus Christ is not Christianity but rather the kingdom of God…. to believe that God is limited to it [Christianity] would be an attempt to manage God. If one holds that Christ is confined to Christianity, one has chosen a god that is not sovereign. Soren Kierkegaard argued that the moment one decides to become a Christian, one is liable to idolatry.1
On Selmanovic’s website, Faith House project, he presents an interfaith vision that will “…seek to bring progressive Jews, Christians, Muslims, and spiritual seekers of no faith to become an interfaith community for the good of the world. We have one world and one God.”2
While Selmanovic says he includes Christians in this interspiritual dream for the world, he makes it clear that while they might be included, they are in no way beholders of an exclusive truth. He states:
Is our religion [Christianity] the only one that understands the true meaning of life? Or does God place his truth in others too? Well, God decides, and not us. The gospel is not our gospel, but the gospel of the kingdom of God, and what belongs to the kingdom of God cannot be hijacked by Christianity.3
While it is true that God is the One who decides where He is going to place truth, He has already made that decision. And the answer to that is found in the Bible. When Selmanovic asks if Christianity is the only religion that understands the true meaning of life, the answer is yes. How can a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Muslim fully understand truth when their religions omit a Savior who died for their sins?
Though world religions may share some moral precepts (don’t lie, steal, etc), the core essence of Christianity (redemption) is radically different from all of them. Interspirituality may sound noble on the surface, but in actuality, Selmanovic and the other emerging church leaders are facilitating occultist Alice Bailey’s rejuvenation of the churches. In her rejuvenation, everyone remains diverse (staying in their own religion), yet united in perspective, with no one religion claiming a unique corner on the truth. In other words all religions lead to the same destination and emanate from the same source. And of course, Bailey believed that a “coming one” whom she called Christ would appear on the scene in order to lead united humanity into an era of global peace. However, you can be sure that if such a scenario were to take place as Bailey predicted, there would be no room for those who cling to biblical truth.
As is the case with so many emergent leaders, Selmanovic’s confusing language dances obscurely around his theology, whether he realizes it or not. Sadly, for those who are lost and who are trying to find the way, the emerging church movement offers confusion in place of clarity. It blurs if not obliterates the walls of distinction between good and evil, truth and falsehood, leaving people to stumble along a broken path, hoping to find light. (from Faith Undone, pp. 187-189)
How far will the emerging mystical church move into Seventh Day Adventism? A 2004 article in the Adventist News Network, “Church, Congregations Increase Focus on ‘Spiritual Formation,” gives more than a glimpse to the answer to this question. “Spiritual formation is a topic being raised by many pastors and church leaders in a growing number of Christian denominations,” the article states. It adds:
For the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a “wake-up call” was sounded after a 2002 survey showed that though doctrinal understanding was high, there were several “areas of concern,”
The article says that “concerns can be linked to how the church rates in the area of spiritual formation, which has been defined by one Adventist Church pastor as ‘the process of becoming a mature Christian disciple of God.” Spiritual formation, another term for contemplative spirituality, eventually leads into the arena of the emerging church (both are based in mysticism). The article goes on: “Today this subject is receiving serious emphasis in Adventist institutions, as well as in local congregations.”
A case in point, in 2006, Brian McLaren was a guest speaker at the Adventist Loma Linda University. McLaren rejects the traditional view of the atonement (substitutionary death of Christ for sins). Loma Linda now has spiritual formation as an integral part of school life. Interestingly, they are using the Journal of Spiritual Formation that is put out by Biola University (a strong proponent for contemplative).
John Jenson, an Adventist pastor in Torrance, California, says, “There’s a need for spiritual formation with the [Adventist] Church . . . without spiritual formation, a person would be ‘spiritually uncivilized.'” If this line of reasoning is shared among other Adventist pastors, then no doubt contemplative/emerging spirituality will place its heavy mark on the Adventist movement as it has already done in so many other religious groups. And with Leonard Sweet speaking at Adventist conferences, this process will be speeded up all the more.
1. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Samir Selmanovic section, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness,” pp. 192-193.
2. From Faith House Project website: http://samirselmanovic. typepad.com/faith_house/2.WhatisFaithHouseProject.pdf.
3. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 194.