One day we received a call from one of our readers who wanted to share some news concerning his pastor’s son. He told us the son, after sitting under Dallas Willard for four years in university, declared himself to now be an atheist. How could this have happened? The boy was raised in a Christian home. Dallas Willard claims to be a Christian. While we do not know the details of this boy’s story, the following fictionalized account could very well be his story and that of many other young Christians today.
We’ll call our boy, John. John was raised in a Christian home. He attended church regularly and grew up with solid Christian teaching. Then, as a young adult, it seemed that he should stretch his wings a little, so he decided to attend a nearby university. This seemed to be a good move; he felt sufficiently grounded in the Word of God that he should benefit from the experience. His parents, though somewhat hesitant because it was a secular school, agreed, and any concerns they did have were alleviated when they found out John connected with one of the university’s professors who was a well-known Christian figure and actually became John’s spiritual mentor.
It all seemed like such a good arrangement, getting discipleship from one of America’s top spiritual leaders. The professor had a special emphasis on spiritual formation and contemplative prayer with a theology akin to emerging spirituality. Like the classic emerging leaders, he would postulate what God must be like based on the rational premise that God is love. This sounded innocent enough. After all, the Bible says that God is love.
But a problem arose when human reasoning became the final authority, taking precedence even over Scripture. So when subjects like Hell were discussed, it only seemed logical that a loving God would never send anyone to Hell. Why would God assign anyone to such a place? Consequently, Hell must not exist.
Now the professor never came right out and said there was no Hell; but he asked questions, and he got his young protégée to ask questions. Questions, questions . . . but often no answers.
This line of reasoning progressed further and further. The professor had John read books by writers like William Shannon (Silence on Fire) and Brennan Manning (Above All), both who stated that the God who caused Noah’s flood or exacted the last drop of blood from His son for the sins of others, that God does not exist.1 John took his professor’s teachings and carried them to their logical conclusions: A loving God would not allow evil to reign in the world; a loving God, why would He allow disease and suffering? A loving God would . . . One thought led to another in logical sequence to a final conclusion: If a loving God would not allow these things, but these things are happening, then God must not exist. Sadly enough, this young man in our fiction story (based on true stories), with a very promising future, entered college life as a believer and came out an atheist.
So, even though his professor did not tell John that he should become an atheist, he equipped this young man with a thought process that ultimately excludes the teachings of the Bible. Equipping a young person where philosophical reasoning precludes God’s revelation is like placing a child in a rattlesnake pit while cautioning him not to get bit.
It is the same throughout the “new” spirituality/emerging church movement. The leaders of this movement come across as being very hip and highly intelligent, thereby ensnaring vast numbers of young people who are seeking someone they can look up to for answers.
For example, Rob Bell in the promotional video for his new book, Love Wins, raises a series of questions on what God must be like. This man has an incredible ability to break down the foundations of the Bible by merely asking questions. Like John’s professor, he begins with the premise that God is love, then skillfully and persuasively breaks down the fundamentals of the Bible through a chain of questions. It is interesting to note that the serpent beguiled Eve by asking a question.
The list could go on and on with examples of emerging leaders who question and postulate their way through the minds of young people – overturning long-held sacred beliefs. Lighthouse Trails has received phone calls by numerous parents over the last nearly ten years who have told us their children’s Christian faith was turned upside down in just a short period of time when they entered college or university, many of which were Christian schools.
One young man looking for answers found them by turning to Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. Listen to what he found:
I bumped into the classic spiritual disciplines while taking a course called “Dynamics of Christian Life” in my second year of Bible school. One of our textbooks was The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. The course and textbook only touched on the actual disciplines, but the concept captivated me. The following spring, I found a copy of Richard Foster’s spiritual classic Celebration of Discipline in a used bookstore. Opening it and discovering each discipline detailed chapter by chapter, I felt a profound sense of joy and excitement. I’d found a real treasure.
Later, this young man became a free lance writer for Youth Specialties. Listen to where the spirituality of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster led him:
I built myself a prayer room – a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns, the state in which dreams occur, while still awake and meditating. – “Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life” by Mike Perschon
Many reading this article may remember the Jesus Movement where many found the Lord during the 1960s-1970s.The Lord’s mercy came down upon the young people of that generation, many of whom were being swept away in a self-destructive course of drugs, alcohol, sensual immorality, and eastern mysticism. During that time, there was a sense of urgency to get right with God and a lot of discussion that we may be living in the last days. Unfortunately, many of us who got saved then later witnessed how some teachings and practices got off course when the Word of God was not adhered to. How sad to see that the children and grandchildren of those converts are missing out on being taught the true Word of God but are rather left with the scraps and throw-away pieces, namely heretical teachings.
The Bible does predicts that there will be a great delusion before Jesus returns, and we believe we are seeing such delusion today. But, there is hope, or otherwise we would not be writing this article today. First of all, we need to be praying for this generation of young people. Secondly, we need to make ourselves available to the Lord to help in any way that we can.
The eternal destiny of our children and grandchildren is now at stake. The Bible says that when the enemy comes in like a flood the Lord will raise a standard against it. We who have witnessed these things know what that standard is – it is a return to the solid teaching of the Word of God and the preaching of the Gospel. Pray that God will open the eyes of our young people to see the false teachers that have entered their midst. And pray that the converts of that later movement will repent and return to their first love of the truth of God’s Word.