Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. (I Corinthians 10:21)
Why are so many Christian leaders continually appearing with personalities who claim to be Christian yet promote the heretical “new spirituality”? In January 2010, in Alberta, Canada, such a situation will take place at the Break Forth conference, bringing together a conglomeration of Christian figures, New Age sympathizers, and mystic/emerging proponents. From Joel Rosenberg (Epicenter), Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness), and Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) to William Paul Young (The Shack), Leonard Sweet (Quantum Spirituality), and contemplative proponents such as Duffy Robbins (Enjoy the Silence) and Brad Jersak, Break Forth will be like drawing gray lines in the sand–blended, indistinguishable lines.
In essence, this merging together, like so many other events now taking place within evangelical Christianity, willhelp erode the distinction between truth and falsehood and light and dark.
With well-known names like Rosenberg, Peretti, and Strobel as part of the speaking platform, many Christians who otherwise might not attend or pay much attention to this emerging event, could be drawn in just by the mere mention of these men’s names. And with Break Forth boasting that 1000 Canadian churches are represented at this event, tens of thousands of church goers could easily, directly or indirectly, be impacted in a fashion ultimately leading to spiritual deception and apostasy.
As for Lee Strobel, though many have admired his work in the past (such as The Case for Christ), it is really no surprise that he is attending Break Forth. With his sponsorship of his son’s very contemplative/emerging ministry Metamorpha, multiple appearances at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral over the years, and his ongoing connections with Saddleback and Willow Creek, discernment is not something that Strobel appears to give much attention to.
But most people would not expect Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti to share a platform with those in the contemplative/emerging/new spirituality camp.
In Warren B. Smith’s book, A “Wonderful” Deception, Smith has clearly laid out the New Age sympathies of Leonard Sweet, one of the Break Forth teachers. Smith reveals how Sweet calls the late heretical panentheist New Age leader Pierre Teilhard de Chardin “Twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice.”1 But Chardin does not represent biblical Christianity–on the contrary, he falls in a spiritual camp that embraces the “cosmic Christ,” which is the I AM (God) in every creature. Even though this christ-consciousness-in-all-people belief rejects the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, Sweet has openly aligned himself with Chardin. In Sweet’s book, Aqua Church, he favorably quotes Chardin saying: “Christ is in the Church in the same way as the sun is before our eyes. We see the same sun as our fathers saw, and yet we understand it in a much more magnificent way” (p. 39, Aqua Church). This pure arrogance of Sweet’s alignment with Chardin’s New Age views is nothing short of heresy.
It isn’t just Chardin with whom Leonard Sweet resonates. Referring to certain New Age advocates as “New Light” leaders, Sweet calls them his “role models” and “heroes.” 2 Who are some of those Sweet esteems?–Matthew Fox, Willis Harman, M. Scott Peck. And of pioneering New Age leader David Spangler, Sweet says: “I am grateful to David Spangler for his help in formulating this ‘new cell’ understanding of New Light leadership.” Read the following quotes by Teilhard de Chardin (another of Sweet’s New Light role models) from his book, Christianity and Evolution, and decide for yourself if this is someone whom a Christian could consider a role model and a hero.
[T]he Cross still stands … But this in on one condition, and one only: that it expand itself to the dimensions of a New Age, and cease to present itself to us as primarily (or even exclusively) the sign of a victory over sin. (p. 219-220).
I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution (p. 95).
What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of Pantheism of the pantheist aspect of Christianity (p. 56).
In addition to appearing with Leonard Sweet at Break Forth, Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti will also be appearing with William Paul Young. Young wrote the New York Times best-seller, The Shack, a book that has strong elements of universalism, interspirituality, and panentheism. The story’s emotional appeal has drawn millions in, but its rejection of traditional biblical Christianity is apparent to those who are willing to look past the sensual pull. The book states that “Jesus” does not want to convert anyone to Christianity and that “‘God,’ who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things” (p. 112). The book never mentions God’s adversary, Satan, and states: “Evil and darkness . . . do not have any actual existence” (p. 136). The black Madonna (goddess spirituality) is reflected in the story as well.3
In A “Wonderful” Deception, Smith lays out the New Age spirituality of Sweet and The Shack, showing how what they believe ties in more with the vision of the New Age than with the God of the Bible. We have placed three of the chapters of Smith’s book (the ones dealing with Sweet and The Shack), online to underline our concern.4
Break Forth’s invitation to emerging/new spirituality speakers is not an isolated incident this year. In the past, speakers have included: Erwin McManus, Tony Campolo, Robert Webber, Bill Hybels, and Mike Yaconelli (Youth Specialties). This year, Canadian author Brad Jersak will be teaching at Break Forth in a workshop on prayer. Jersak is a strong proponent of contemplative spirituality. His book, Stricken by God (endorsed by emergent leader Brian McLaren) is a compilation of essays by various authors. Two of those authors are Richard Rohr and Marcus Borg. Borg, a mystic proponent, rejects basic foundational tenets of Christian doctrine (such as the virgin birth of Christ), and Rohr is a panentheist who wrote the foreword to a 2007 book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. When Break Forth attendees will sit and listen to Brad Jersak this year, they could be getting, at least in part, the spiritual overtones of Marcus Borg and Richard Rohr.
The spiritualities of Rohr, Borg, Sweet, and Young have a common New Age/New Spirituality theme–the belief that God is IN all things–this panentheistic belief is the bottom line of the coming New Age world religion. Clearly, this is not biblical Christianity. If such a belief were true, then there would be no need for the Cross because all would already be united to God and in no need of atonement or salvation as the Bible describes. Man would not truly be sinful and in need of a Savior. His problem wouldn’t be his sinful nature but would be merely an ignorance of his own divinity. This is classic New Ageism and occultism. And it is the underlying foundation of the new emerging spirituality to which Break Forth is giving a platform.
While seeing Leonard Sweet’s, Brad Jersak’s, and William Paul Young’s names on the schedule makes perfect sense because of Break Forth’s emphasis on the New Age/new spirituality, seeing Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti as scheduled speakers is cause for concern. Don’t Christian leaders understand that spiritual deception is very real and very tangible? And why don’t they speak up against those who are vehicles for such apostasy? Why do respected Christian authors, like Peretti and Rosenberg, appear with New Age sympathizers like Leonard Sweet and William Paul Young? Will they rationalize–as Kay Arthur did at a past Break Forth conference when she appeared with the liberal mystic proponent Tony Campolo–that they don’t have a problem appearing with anyone as long as they can share their own message? But such an attitude is not scriptural. Ephesians 5:11 says we are to have no fellowship with “the unfruitful works of darkness” but rather expose them.
Sharing a platform with Frank Peretti and Joel Rosenberg gives emerging New Age/new spirituality sympathizers an apparent badge of authenticity and respectability. It implants in the minds of the attendees that if someone like Leonard Sweet is on the same speaking lineup as Frank Peretti, Sweet must be, for the most part, orthodox in his views. But this isn’t just a matter of certain doctrinal differences–this goes much deeper. This has to do with an entirely different spiritual viewpoint, one that does not reflect what biblical Christianity stands for.
It would be well for Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti to remember the words of the apostle Paul who said that believers are to warn against those preaching heresy, not stand with them. Leonard Sweet and William Paul Young and the whole emerging/new spirituality movement are what the Bible refers to as “wild grapes.”
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. Isaiah 5:1-2
Christian leaders should not, in any way, enable “wild grapes” within God’s vineyard. In This Present Darkness, Frank Peretti’s stalwart and faithful Christian believers would expose rather than appear with New Age/new spirituality sympathizers. The back cover of Peretti’s book reiterates this: “Ashton is just a typical small town. But when a skeptical reporter and a prayerful pastor begin to compare notes, they suddenly find themselves fighting a hideous New Age plot to subjugate the town’s people, and eventually the entire human race.”
Peretti cites Ephesians 6:12 on the back cover as well. That Scripture states: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Is Peretti forgetting his own exhortation to Christian believers to beware of deceptive New Age spirituality? He rode to prominence defending Christianity against this very thing.
In A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen has given a vital plea to believers:
The Bible teaches that man has an inherently rebellious and ungodly nature (which is evident), and his ways are naturally self-centered and evil in the sight of God. The Bible teaches that God is not indifferent to us. The sacrifice of Christ for the ungodly to reconcile us to God reveals the Lord’s love toward Man.
This explains why Christianity must be steadfast on these issues. If a belief system does not teach the preaching of the Cross, then it is not “the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). If other ways are correct, “then Christ is dead in vain,” rendering His shed blood unnecessary and immaterial (Galatians 2:21).
Because of this conflict, we can safely assume that Christendom is the most formidable obstacle to the New Age, standing like a bulwark against this tidal wave of meditation teachers and practical mystics. But, incredibly … many of the most successful practical mystics are appearing from within Christendom itself. Ironically, instead of stemming the momentum of New Age spirituality, it is our own churches that may very well be the decisive catalysts to propel this movement into prominence. (chapter 1, ATOD)
When Jesus was asked what would be the sign of His return and the end of the world, He warned, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Matthew 24:4
1. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, p. 106, from page 111, A “Wonderful” Deception by Warren B. Smith
2. Ibid., Acknowledgements and Preface
3. For more information on the spirituality behind The Shack, read Larry DeBruyn’s new book, Unshackled.
4. chapter 10, chapter 11, chapter 12 (A “Wonderful” Deception)