Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet Riding the “Tides of Change” on the Heels of Mysticism

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While many Christians are beginning to see the unbiblical nature of the teachings of certain emerging church leaders, countless churches and church leaders are inadvertently following the emerging church through their participation of Purpose Driven Life. Rick Warren has and continues to show support for even the most avid emergent leaders. In this week’s edition of Rick Warren’s “Ministry Toolbox” newsletter, he favorably quotes another emergent teacher, just one of the many times such quotes have shown up in his newsletter.

This week’s quote is by New Age sympathizer Leonard Sweet. The quote is from Sweet’s 1996 book, The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life:

Jesus comes not so that we might have “my so called life,” as the hit baby buster television show put it. Nor did Jesus come that we might have a “so-so,” bland mediocre life, or an artificial life. Jesus came to show us the way to a healthy, hyper-real, Spirit-filled, life-plus life. The Word made flesh to the full came to make all flesh full of the Word.

While this quote, in and of itself may seem rather innocuous, other factors need to be looked at to understand the implications of Rick Warren’s quoting Leonard Sweet. In looking at the whole picture, it will be easier to identify the significance of this connection.

In 1995, just a year prior to the release of The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life Warren and Sweet did an audio series together called Tides of Change. Ray Yungen in his book, A Time of Departing, discusses the audio series as well as the Warren/Sweet connection:

In the set, Warren and Sweet talk about “new frontiers,” “changing times” and a “new spirituality” on the horizon.

Later, in Sweet’s 2001 book, Soul Tsunami, Warren gives an endorsement that sits on the back as well as on the front cover of the book. Of the book, Warren says:

Leonard Sweet … suggests practical ways to communicate God’s unchanging truth to our changing world.

Some of these “practical ways” include using a labyrinth and visiting a meditation center. Sweet also says, “It’s time for a Post Modern Reformation,” adding that “The wind of spiritual awakening is blowing across the waters.” He says that times are changing and you’d better “Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die.”

To better understand Leonard Sweet’s spirituality, I would like to draw your attention to a book he wrote a few years prior to the Tides of Change audio set–Quantum Spirituality. I highly recommend you take a look at this book yourself–Sweet has now placed the book on his website at www.leonardsweet.com in a format easy to download, which, of course, shows that he still promotes its message. The acknowledgments section of Quantum Spirituality shows very clearly Sweet’s spiritual sympathies. In it, Sweet thanks interspiritualists/universalists such as Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ), Episcopalian priest/mystic Morton Kelsey, Willis Harman (author of Global Mind Change) and Ken Wilber (one of the major intellectuals in the New Age movement) for helping him to find what he calls “New Light.” Sweet adds that he trusts the Spirit that led the author of The Cloud of Unknowing.”

In the preface of the same book, Sweet disseminates line after line of suggestions that the “old teachings” of Christianity must be replaced with new teachings of “the New Light.” And yet these new teachings, he believes, will draw from “ancient teachings” (the Desert Fathers). This “New Light movement,” Sweet says, is a “radical faith commitment that is willing to dance to a new rhythm.”

Throughout the book, Sweet favorably uses terms like Christ consciousness and higher self and in no uncertain terms promotes New Age ideology: [Quantum spirituality is] a structure of human becoming,
a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience.

The Bible does not describe Jesus Christ as an energy channeling its way in and through us. Without a doubt, this is New Age lingo. The wonderful thing about the Gospel that is presented in Scripture is that Jesus Christ is presented as a personal God who loves us and will have a relationship with anyone who, by faith, comes to the Father through Him. This is where the contemplatives have it wrong. They believe that through this meditative prayer they can reach God. Sweet also tells his readers that humanity and creation are united as one and we must realize it. Once humanity comes to this realization, Sweet says: Then, and only then, will a New Light movement of “world-making” faith have helped to create the world that is to, and may yet, be. Then, and only then, will earthlings have uncovered the meaning … of the last words [Thomas Merton] uttered: “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity.”

Leonard Sweet is what could be called an Alice Bailey Christian because his views on the role of mysticism in the church are evident. He states:

Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center…. In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, “The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing.” [Mysticism] is metaphysics arrived at through mindbody experiences. Mysticism begins in experience; it ends in theology.

It is this same mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) that I believe Rick Warren is also promoting. Warren extends his promotion and endorsement of Sweet to his pastors.com website. Nearly a dozen times Sweet is referred to positively, including an article featuring Sweet and another article written by him.( A Time of Departing , pp. 158-160)

While many have no problem speaking out against emergent heresies, they will emphatically uphold and defend the Purpose Driven paradigm, when in reality, in all things that matter, they are going in the very same direction. Now the question that each believer must ask, Just what is that direction, and does it line up with the direction the Bible tells us to go?

For those who still have doubts that Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet are on the same page spiritually, take a look at a document on Warren’s website, dated 4/4/2001 (the 3rd edition of his newsletter). It is titled, 24 Transitions For Moving Into The 21st Century.

Listen to some of these transitions:
“From control to out-of-control”
“From critique and pick-apart [discern] to celebrate and pick up”
“From structure to rhythm”
“From ‘Does it Make Sense’ to ‘Was it a Good Experience?'”
“From Excellence to Authenticity — From Performance to Realness”
“From Denominations to Tribes”

This is where the emerging church is going. Some serious questions need to be asked: Is Sweet’s “new spirituality” the same as Warren’s “new spirituality, is Sweet’s “new reformation” Warren’s “new reformation,” and is Sweet’s “mysticism” Warren’s “mysticism.” And finally, are they also the body of Christ’s, or rather do they belong to the prince of this world and are part of a seduction that the Bible says will take place before Christ returns? The Bible is clear that there will be a great falling away in the last days and there will be much spiritual darkness on the face of the earth.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (II Thessalonians 2:1-4)


For more information, read:
*A Time of Departing
*Spiritual Fusion – East Comes West by Mike Oppenheimer