Keating, Sweet, Blanchard and Nouwen “consistent with basic tenets of the Christian faith?”
The infiltration of New Age books in online Christian bookstores is a growing concern for many discerning Christians. American Family Association and LifeWay Stores have two of the more popular online stores for Christians, and both stores contain some of the most offensive-to-the-gospel books in their stores.
The following letter was sent to us from Arcangel Ocasio, a concerned believer who wrote to LifeWay Stores. With Mr. Ocasio’s permission, we are posting both his letter to LifeWay and LifeWay’s reply. For those of you who understand the serious implications of the New Age infiltration into Christendom, you may find LifeWay’s response alarming:
I am a member of the Hispanic Evangelical Missionary Church in Brooklyn, NY. We are currently studying from a series of discipleship books from your ministry. I was on your website and was shocked to see that you carry books from New Age sympathizers such as, Thomas Keating, Ken Blanchard, Leonard Sweet, & Henri Nouwen. I didn’t look for others for I think this was enough. It certainly casts a shadow of doubt on your leadership’s discernment. There are a few articles on www.LightHouseTrailsResearch.com having to do with these above mentioned authors which I think you’ll find interesting and hopefully alarming. Many “Christian” bookstores are selling New Age books without considering the impact it will have on new or ignorant believers. Sadly, very few are willing to pull these books from their shelves. Please do take this seriously for the Lord our God will judge us.
Thank you for your email of September 27, expressing your concern that we list books by Thomas Keating, Ken Blanchard, Leonard Sweet, and Henri Nouwen on our web site, www.lifewaystores.com. I am pleased to respond.
Our vision statement at LifeWay Christian Stores is, “As God works through us, we will help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.” We have product standards and will not knowingly carry a book containing unbiblical material. We have not carried many Christian Booksellers Association best-sellers because they contained unsound doctrines. We want our customers to be able to trust every product we list to be biblically-based and theologically sound, so we screen the products that are listed on our web site and exclude ones that do not conform to our standards. As I am sure you are aware, the Internet contains countless sites, full of information on virtually any subject. However, much of the information is opinion. One can find a full range of subjective evaluations of popular Christian authors on various sites. Obviously, they cannot all be accurate because they sometimes contradict each other. We use sites like the one you mentioned in our research, but we do not agree with all their assessments. To address your specific concerns, I will comment on each author you mentioned:
Thomas Keating–He has written books on contemplative prayer, but this does not make him a New Age sympathizer. Meditation is a biblical concept. See Psalm 19:14, Psalm 104:34, Psalm 1:2, and Psalm 119:15. Should Christians abandon this biblical practice just because New Agers have adopted it?
Ken Blanchard–He became a Christian late in life after he established a reputation as one of the best authorities on leadership in America. He is now using his writing and speaking opportunities to develop Christian leaders. His critics have used the “guilt by association” charge which, in many cases, is not valid. He has admitted endorsing some books that are clearly inconsistent with Evangelical Christian theology, and he regrets that. However, in our opinion, that does not invalidate his positive work for the cause of Christ including his recent books on Christian leadership.
Leonard Sweet–He has been associated with the emergent church. Some believe that invalidates his ability to write books acceptable to Evangelical Christians. However, should we exclude books that equip pastors and other Christians learn about trends in theology and culture in order to be equipped to deal with these issues in their churches or other organizations? You mentioned discernment. We do not want to decide for these Christian leaders by excluding books that may be extremely helpful to them and their congregations. We trust their ability to discern how best to use the material they find in these resources.
Henri Nouwen–He was a deeply spiritual and gifted writer about the Christian faith, but he was not a New Age sympathizer. My pastor has quoted him from the pulpit, and our church is definitely not New Age.
Thank you for visiting our web site, for studying discipleship books provided by our ministry, and for taking the time to write to express your concerns about these vitally important issues. I hope you can see that we work very hard to ensure that the products we list are in harmony with our vision statement and product standards. As such, they are biblically-based and theologically sound. With some 100,000 books in our database, our customers could not expect to agree with every thought in every book, but they should not encounter material that is inconsistent with basic tenets of the Christian faith. I hope this information is helpful and encouraging to you.
LifeWay Christian Stores
LTPC: LifeWay’s comments about panentheist and New Age mystic, Thomas Keating, are most disturbing as are their comments about Ken Blanchard, Leonard Sweet and Henri Nouwen. Thomas Keating believes that divinity is within all humanity, and he openly teaches this type of spirituality. LifeWay’s remarks about Ken Blanchard, suggesting he is a new believer, are simply untrue. Blanchard, who has been steadily endorsing and promoting Buddhist books for the last twenty years, by his own admission (in his autobiography, We Are the Beloved) became a professing Christian in the mid eighties – not “late in life” as LifeWay is saying. And while it is true that Blanchard made a statement of regret about his continuous endorsements of Buddhist and New Age books throughout that twenty year period, he has continued to endorse New Age books ( see example) after this statement was made, and he is still a board member of the Hoffman Institute (home of the Hoffman Quadrinity Process), with some of the most avid New Agers today. These connections Blanchard maintains show clearly his affinity to New Age spirituality, which is also the affinity of both Leonard Sweet and Henri Nouwen. Nouwen, in his book Sabbatical Journey, said he was uncomfortable with those who say Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and that he felt it was his calling to help people find their own path to God.
Once again we ask, when are Christian leaders going to defend the faith and say no to spiritual deception and compromise?
“[T]he whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” I John 5:19-20
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name [Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12