On Sunday night, Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, wrote to Lighthouse Trails regarding an article that Kimball wrote on labyrinths in 2001. Kimball stated to us that his article is no longer posted on his website, and he wondered why we still had a link to it. The answer to this is two-fold: First, Kimball’s article is still available on Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, and more importantly, Kimball’s own book condones the use of labyrinths (as well as other contemplative practices), and is still on the market. To our knowledge, there has been no public renouncement made by Kimball regarding labyrinths or the book. Thus, because people reading both the book and the article on Christianity Today could be dangerously persuaded to use labyrinths and other contemplative practices, Lighthouse Trails has continued to make the article accessible, with our commentaries and documentation about the article and the practice.
Kimball’s letter Sunday night has prompted us to take another look at his book, The Emerging Church. The book (published by Zondervan in 2003) is endorsed by many proponents of contemplative prayer and the emerging church. Three and a half pages of endorsements inside the front cover include: John Ortberg, Bob Buford (who launched the Emergent leaders in the mid-ninties), Erwin McManus, Brian McLaren, Sally Morgenthaler, Rick Warren, Spencer Burke (The Ooze), and Tony Jones.
Throughout Kimball’s book are numerous sidebar commentaries by Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Mark Oestreicher (Youth Specialties director) and Sally Morgenthaler. Warren and McLaren each wrote a foreword to the book, and Warren alone wrote 17 sidebar commentaries (all but one were favorable – see A Time of Departing for more elaboration on Warren’s comments). As with most pro-emerging church books, readers are told that Christianity must be re-defined. And as with most pro-emerging church books, contemplative spirituality is woven through the pages. Kimball states:
[W]e set up a prayer labyrinth, which was really a series of experiential prayer stations. A labyrinth is a mazelike path similar to those designed into the floors of European cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Christians of that time would slowly walk the labyrinth as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection. (pp. 168-169)
A key element to the emergent conversation is the experience vs. doctrine issue. This book is no exception. Kimball quotes the Senior Pastor of Wooddale Church in Minneapolis, Leith Anderson. Anderson states: “The old paradigm taught that if you had the right teaching, you will experience God. The new paradigm says that if you experience God, you will have the right teaching … It is not so much that one is right and the other is wrong; it is more of a matter of the perspective one takes on God’s touch and God’s truth (p. 188). Anderson and Kimball aren’t the only emerging leaders who talk this way. Larry Crabb said “The spiritual climate is ripe. Jesus seekers across the world are being prepared to abandon the old way of the written code for the new way of the Spirit” (foreword, Sacred Companions by David Benner). Erwin McManus states that it is his goal to destroy Christianity. He means traditional, theologically-based Christianity and replace it with experiential and mystical Christianity. And the list goes on. Brian McLaren says the doctrine of the Cross and Hell are false advertising for God. The very fact that McLaren’s commentaries are sprinkled throughout the book should be reason enough for Kimball to pull the book off the market. But when Kimball tells readers (on page 223): “We have neglected so many of the disciplines of the historical church, including weekly fasting, practicing silence, and lectio divina, and “we can learn from the Celtic approach,” it is clear to see he is in sync with other contemplatives and emergents. Also found in the book are favorable quotes by Dallas Willard, Gary Thomas (who tells his followers to repeat a word or phrase for twenty minutes in Sacred Pathways), Peter Drucker, and New Age sympathizer, Leonard Sweet (who speaks of the Christ-consciousness).
In taking another look at this book, it is clear that it presents a much larger problem than an article on labyrinths. And the question must be asked, “Why is Dan Kimball so concerned that people not know about his article on labyrinths, but he seems to have no problem with The Emerging Church circulating widely around the world?
At the back of Kimball’s book, he offers several pages of “Resources for the Emerging Church.” Websites and books listed include some of the most avid proponents of Eastern mysticism via Christendom: The Ooze, Youth Specialties, Leonard Sweet, Henri Nouwen, Erwin McManus, and Tony Jones.
We pray that Dan Kimball will re-think this book, pull it from the market and join those believers who say, Contemplative spirituality is completely contrary to biblical Christianity.
For information on the above mentioned teachers and topics, go to Lighthouse Trails Research Project.